The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
When I was in 6th grade, I read a book that captivated and devastated me. And those feelings have remained the same ever since.
The first time I read Anne Frank’s writing, I experienced shock and amazement and horror and wonder. Marveling that a girl my own age could write the way she wrote. Horrified at the hatred that caused her death.
And when my book club read her diary earlier this year, those feelings returned tenfold. Because reading her words and her ideas as an adult reader, I realized from a completely new perspective how remarkable she was.
And then I said some really strong curse words because she was killed.
When I read her diary earlier in life (all those times I re-read it), I was reading the edited version. The first time I’d read The Definitive Edition was this year, and I kept wondering if the reading experience was different only because I was now an adult, or whether reading the longer edition made that big a difference. I’ll never know. I’d’ve had to have read the edited version this year, followed by the definitive edition, to have gotten a good sense.
But these two things kept making me pause and feel a sense of admiration: her insightful commentary on herself and her situation, and her marvelous prose style. The girl could write.
The only saving grace is that her diary was salvaged and published. When a book becomes a stronger work upon re-reading it, you know you’re reading something of enormous power.
The Anne Frank website states these words, and they fill me with hope for humanity:
“Otto often concludes his letters with the words: ‘I hope Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that insofar as it is possible in your own circumstances, you will work for unity and peace.'”
Update… In late 2013, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, fulfilling the dream I’d had since sixth grade — of standing in the space where she lived and wrote. A remarkable experience. I’m still overcome by it.