Honoring Anne Frank on her Birthday, June 12, 2021
Honoring Anne Frank on her birthday, June 12, 2021
By Joy Fisher Williams Executive Marketing Manager, English
How to honor the birthday of the young woman whose diary--published after her death at age 15 in a Nazi concentration camp--had a lasting impact on tens of millions of people, in particular young and aspiring writers?
I’ll start with gratitude.
I first read Anne Frank’s diary around the age of 9 or 10. I went to see the play, The Secret Annex, based on it. I read biographies, commentaries, anything I could get my hands on (oh, where were you, Internet, when I needed you in the 1980’s? If only!).
Looking back, I think what captivated me most beyond the candor and context of her writing was the idea that the interior world of a girl, similar in age to me, had been put forth for public consumption. I wondered with awe and horror as to whether my own diaries would one day be freely available to the world. It made me think and write differently, knowing this. Of course, my experiences were fairly insignificant in contrast to hers; yet these are the musings of a young mind and ego.
I had no idea at the time that what I was reading was Anne’s EDITED version of her diary, that she’d gone back at age 15 to REVISE what she’d written as a 13-year-old. That her intentionality was, indeed, that of a writer working to perfect her craft. That she’d learned much in her time in hiding, become more mature and REFLECTIVE, perhaps even jaded. And she wanted to make that known to a wider audience.
In her book Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, novelist Francine Prose argues that we must recognize The Diary of Anne Frank as more than historical record, compelling as it is. She says we should see it as literature.
I couldn’t agree more. Anne was my first and best teacher about the humans affected by the holocaust. As Prose says, we won’t soon forget the stories of those 8 people hidden away in the attic in Amsterdam for over two years until their capture. Anne made me a conscious writer. Doubtless she has done the same for others who, upon reading her work, envision themselves in a room dedicated to the craft, pen and paper (or keyboard and screen) in hand, recording their lived experiences, but, unlike her, they are writing in plain sight: most of them free from persecution; able to conceive and even to realize a broader audience for their work, whether a blog post, a social media entry, or (imagine!) a published memoir. I believe that anyone who writes with her in mind, in any format or circumstance, honors her.
Happy Birthday to Anne Frank, the writer who first inspired me to write with intention.