Earlier this week, I issued a challenge, which was to spend some time talking about censorship and/or a banned book that had a significant positive impact on you as a reader. As I was thinking about my own response to this challenge, it occurred to me that many of the books that had the greatest impact on me when I was growing up were books that were challenged or banned, though I didn’t know that at the time.
Some of these books were titles that were assigned by various English teachers throughout the years, such as: Animal Farm, To Kill A Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, and Flowers for Algernon. Others were books that I picked up at my local library just for fun, not realizing that they had been (or currently were) the subject of a book challenge somewhere in the country.
One of these books was Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, which I’m sure many of you are already familiar with.
The Diary of a Young Girl is Anne Frank’s account of her life while she and her family (along with the Van Dann family and Mr. Dussel) were in hiding from the Nazis. The book is an incredible record of the author’s experiences, hopes, dreams, and fears, and it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. It’s also a very important piece of history, because it shows the reality and necessity of having to go into hiding to escape persecution.
“This is a remarkable book. Written by a young girl — and the young are not afraid of telling the truth — it is one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read.”Eleanor Roosevelt, from the Introduction to Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl
My copy of The Diary of a Young Girl has been with me since the early 1990s when, if memory serves, my parents bought it for me at a school book fair. The first time I read it, I was about the same age as Anne Frank was when she began writing, and I remember really connecting with her as I read the entries she wrote in her diary.
I have read her diary several times since then, which I’m sure you can tell based on the condition of my personal copy (which is pictured above). When I was still teaching, I kept multiple copies of The Diary of a Young Girl in my classroom library, and my eighth grade class read the drama adaptation each year.
But as I mentioned, when I read The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time, I had no idea that it had been challenged or banned. And it’s only recently that I’ve learned that there is another edition of the diary, which contains material that was not included in my own copy from the 90s.
What’s so odd about the banning of The Diary of a Young Girl is that the reasons it has been challenged are not related to issues of war or genocide, as one might expect. Instead, many of the complaints I’ve come across on the Internet seem to be focused on “sexually explicit” content, which is in reference to the author’s discussions of puberty and menstruation. The Definitive Edition apparently includes additional descriptions of female anatomy, which has been a catalyst for more recent banning attempts.
Since I haven’t read the Definitive Edition, I can’t really comment on the additional material that it includes. But when I read the book as a young person, I honestly don’t remember being surprised by the author’s discussion of puberty-related topics, and I certainly wasn’t offended by it.
Personally, I really feel like The Diary of a Young Girl is a book that should be read by as many people as possible. Not only does it provide insights into the author’s life, but it also serves as a reminder of a tragedy which should not be forgotten. If you’ve never had the opportunity to read this amazing book, I highly recommend taking the time to do so.