I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
– April 5, 1944
I have been following this 2016 Reading Challenge, and for category #7, I was to choose a book published before I was born. There are a lot of books that qualify under this category, and choosing just one could have proven difficult, but I decided to choose something from my already enormous list of books I want to read someday. What rose to the top was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
A small light in a dark room…
Sometime last year I began work on a new series of adventures intended for young girls, The Golden Locket Adventures. This is to be a sister series to my other middle grade stories, The Silver Compass Adventures, intended primarily for boys.
As I searched for ideas for these books, I began researching notable women throughout history that I could highlight in my books. I didn’t want just the obvious women who have been studied and profiled many times already, though I have considered the likes of Annie Oakley and Amelia Earhart. I looked for those I hadn’t heard of before and sought out their stories.
In this way, I encountered Miep Gies. Mrs. Gies worked for Otto Frank’s company in Amsterdam before the German invasion of Holland and throughout the war. She became instrumental in helping to hide the family, and was the one to recover Anne’s diary on the day the Franks were arrested, hoping to be able to return it once the war was over. I read Mrs. Gies’s autobiography, Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. I was fascinated.
But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room.
– Miep Gies
This woman’s story was well told. I was captivated, even devastated by her story, and deeply impressed by her strength. She became one of the first women I hope to feature in my adventure series.
But after reading her story, I wanted to know more. Thus, Anne’s diary joined my list of books I needed to read. This reading challenge provided the perfect opportunity to do so.
I have now finished reading the diary, and hope to share my thoughts. This will not be a typical book review. It is more of a piece of an ongoing conversation that I think we should not lose sight of. A conversation that should not be left in the past. The Jewish Holocaust of the second world war may be over, but hatred, bigotry and other human indecencies continue unabated to this day. I have to believe that we are capable of so much better.
This book isn’t a story as a typical book would be. Even a biography follows a narrative with a beginning, middle and an end. This is simply a diary, published as it was written. Near-daily entries of the everyday life as Anne experienced it. She wrote about her thoughts. She wrote about her family. She wrote about the conflicts that inevitably arise between people who are in too close quarters without break. She wrote about her interests and her hopes for the future.
Oh, why are people so crazy?
There a so many directions I could go with this Anne Frank article. She had so much to say and a surprising amount of wisdom for a girl of her age. She wrote about the typical things an adolescent girl thinks about, family relationships, love, her changing body, the future.
But more than that, she wrote about the war and the Jewish plight.
There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!
– May 3, 1944
She wrote about the roles of men and women and the unfairness of gender bias.
Men presumably dominated women from the very beginning because of their greater physical strength; it’s men who earn a living, beget children and do as they please … Until recently, women silently went along with this, which was stupid, since the longer it’s kept up, the more deeply entrenched it becomes.
– June 13, 1944
Anne wrote with remarkable insight into the human condition. At the age of fourteen, she recognized within herself two “Annes” – an inner Anne she kept mostly hidden within herself out of fear, and the outward Anne which was the one everyone saw. She wrote often about the “outer” Anne as being dominant whenever anyone else was around. She would try to be the inner Anne, the better Anne, but expectations of others always had her shoving that Anne back down inside. She also felt that the inner Anne was her true self, but she could only seem to reveal this part of herself to her diary.
Anne began writing in her diary at the age of thirteen, shortly after going into hiding. She wrote primarily for herself in the beginning, but after hearing on the radio how documents such as letters and diaries could serve as a record of the war, she began to take her writing more seriously and even rewrote much of her earlier entries. It was her intention to share her experience with the world, but I can’t help but wonder if she could have imagined the reach her words would ultimately have, and the impact they would make on the world.
What I find most remarkable about Anne’s diary is that throughout this time in hiding, an experience most people would find terrifying, dull and extremely wearing, she remains upbeat and positive. She is hopeful for her future, and continues to work toward it with study and practice. Despite the hardships, she sees the positive.
I’m young and strong and living through a big adventure; I’m right in the middle of it and can’t spend all day complaining because it’s impossible to have any fun! I’m blessed with many things: happiness, a cheerful disposition and strength. Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of the people around me. Every day I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?
– May 3, 1944
Anne’s diary provides a beautiful picture of a girl growing into adolescence. We get to be a witness to her growing maturity and self awareness. Anne writes with heartbreaking honesty, and her diary, to this day, holds a relevance that can’t be easily ignored.
I chose to read this book because I was fascinated by the story of a courageous woman who dared to do the right thing even when it was difficult. I wanted to know more of her story, and to see the result of her bravery. In the process I found a girl whose story is just as compelling.
Why do I think others should read this book? Because we all need to remember that underneath the labels – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Black, White or Brown – we are all still human. We all have the same fears, desires, curiosities, hopes and dreams. We all have to pass through the fire that is adolescence. Anne never had the opportunity to come out the other side of it. Many others through that time never had the opportunity. Even more throughout human history have been denied the right to become all they were born to be.
I am glad I made the time to read this book. I’m grateful that through their words, I’ve come to know the likes of Anne Frank and Miep Gies. For one, this is a piece of human history that should not be forgotten. But also, here are two remarkable women who have shared the truth as they saw it and lived it. Who dared to hope for a better future.
Let’s not allow their stories to be forgotten.