Thursday, December 6, 2018

Anne Frank, Again

Thank you! I now have a list of 12 books to investigate, only 2 of which I was aware of before yesterday. That's fantastic. Meanwhile I went to the library. I came home with a pretty enthusiastic stack, including a recent biography of Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin. I've only just begun it but already I can see that her husband was in life more nuanced than he appears in Wikipedia. Not surprising.

Meanwhile, oddly enough, the book I sat down and devoured during my husband's appointments yesterday was the graphic novel version of the Diary of Anne Frank. I say "oddly" only because I'd said I didn't want to read any Holocaust novels, and of course DAF is not only a Holocaust story, but it's a true one in which the teenage heroine is murdered at the end.

(I'll interrupt my blog to add a link to a post I recently read, an article in the Smithsonian pointing out some real problems with the public adoration of Anne. It begins, "People love dead Jews. Living Jews, not so much." It's very worth reading.)

I have a long relationship with the Diary of Anne Frank. I don't remember when I first heard about the Holocaust, but I remember the first time I read Anne's book. I remember it with awful clarity, because I thought it was fiction when I picked it up. I didn't know it was a true story. I expected it to end well. I still remember laying stomach-down across my bed, engrossed in the book, and running full-force into those awful words, "Anne's diary ends here." And then the shattering afterword. I buried my head in my pillows and sobbed.

When I was in Israel I said a few times to some of the other writers on the trip, "I've always wanted to change the ending of the diary. I've wanted to Anne to survive, and I've wanted to write what happens to her then." It's true; I've wanted to write that story for as long as I've known I was a writer. My friends, every one of them, said, "You can't do that." And they're right. I can't. What's next--a kinder, gentler Hitler?

I imagine the adapter and illustrator of the graphic novel felt a certain trepidation, but the version they've produced is stunning. Certain emotive elements of the diary lend themselves very well to full-page illustrations--the sequence of Anne comparing herself to her "perfect" sister Margot is brilliant, economical, complete. But then they fill whole pages with large passages from her diary, uncut, barely illustrated. They're using the full version of the diary, not the edited version first published. Anne shines in these pages.

And still the chilling words, "Anne's diary ends here."

If you're a teacher or librarian, get this book. Your students will love it. Your students will learn from it.

Also, you all were great with the reading recommendations yesterday. What have you got that's high-interest for fourth-graders? ALI is putting together our book lists for our two spring selections. I've got some good ideas but I'd love to have more. Thanks!