Many of us discovered Anne Frank in junior high, whether as assigned reading or just as a book one’s aunt buys her knowing she’s a bookworm and a smart kid. Many of us connected with this plucky young teen and devoured her words while experiencing an unimaginable ordeal, one that happened to too many young girls. And we learned about the Holocaust from a girl our age, a girl who was there, a girl who died while her words lived on.
Many of us read her diary over and over and maybe even one day visited her house, the tiny attic in Amsterdam, exploring each small room, tears streaming down our faces, knowing each space intimately from her descriptions.
But apparently not all of us.
One Michigan parent claims the book is too pornographic for 7th graders. You read that right.
It’s pretty graphic, and it’s pretty pornographic for seventh-grade boys and girls to be reading. It’s inappropriate for a teacher to be giving this material out to the kids when its really the parents’ job to give the students this information.
Le sigh. In case you’re wondering, she’s not referring to a Jewish girl’s capture by the Nazis and then subsequent death at Bergen-Belsen. No. She’s referring to a passage in a girl’s diary in which she talks about her vagina.
The horror. The horror.
The passage in question was edited out of earlier versions. I know the first one I read didn’t contain it, though it was included in the Definitive Edition, the copy I purchased in Amsterdam.
This is the passage:
Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris.
Oh noes. She’s talking about her vagina. We should be teaching girls their vaginas are evil and to be ignored! Or better yet, that their vaginas don’t exist! Shhhhhh! They might one day have sex with them.
I don’t even think this woman should be indulged, because clearly, contrary to her statement, this is the type of woman who won’t teach her 7th grader about her vagina. But I hardly doubt this clinical passage is her kid’s first introduction to vaginas. Unless she never watches TV or talks to her friends and never, ever goes on the internet, I guarantee she knows much more pornographic things about vaginas. Perhaps it would do some good for young girls to learn the actual, clinical terms.
But that is entirely missing the point. That is one tiny part of an overall story about the Holocaust, a real story, told first hand by a one young girl, a girl who, despite hiding from those who would eventually kill her, grew up and dealt with love and emotions and puberty and sexuality. There is a reason she resonates with so many young people. They relate to her and can find themselves in her shoes. I can’t think of a single better way to learn history and to encourage reading.
Horalek says the passages made her daughter uncomfortable? Good! Being uncomfortable is how we learn. And you know what should make them even more uncomfortable? She was hiding for her life! Or maybe she’s a Holocaust denier too.
It doesn’t mean my child is sheltered, it doesn’t mean I live in a bubble, and it doesn’t mean I’m trying to ban books.
Actually, that’s exactly what it means. Your children are sheltered and you are trying to ban books. You know who else banned books? Hitler. That’s what we in the literary world call poetic irony.
I’m sorry, lady, but we’re not going to ignore this huge piece of human history and the words of a girl who speaks for so many just so your daughters don’t get uncomfortable. You don’t get to rewrite history to suit your perfect little world.