Back in 1942, Annelies Marie Frank was busy journaling. Her dream was to become a journalist, and at 13, she was already challenging the status quo: she did not want to sit in a kitchen and focus on raising kids. She wanted more than that. In the next couple of years, while stuck in the Secret Annex with her family and some family friends, Anne would work feverishly writing and revising her work. She learned that the government was looking for journals about the war, so she began revising. Such would become her publish diary after her death at 15 from typhus while imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen.
Recently, Jennifer Pippin, the Chair of the Indian River County Chapter of Moms for Liberty, decided to have the graphic version of Anne Frank’s Diary taken off the shelves at Vero Beach High School Library. Anyone that knows of Anne Frank would know that this is a slap in the face to Anne Frank and her legacy. The one thing this young lady never wanted was to be censored, oppressed, any more than it turns out she has been.
As one that studied Anne Frank and is writing about her, I write to set the record straight about many of the misleading and frankly ignorant statements that came from Pippen in a recent USA Today article. Liberty and freedom involve the right of parents and teenagers to make their own decisions based on the free flow of information, which libraries provide. Pippin’s views are her own, and she can practice her views; however, such views about Frank are encroaching on other parents’ and students’ rights and shaming teens for feelings that they inevitably have about sexuality. As one that worked in forensic social work, the most danger we can put are teens in is a culture of shame and silence about the human body. The “don’t talk about it” is toxic and dangerous. Lack of safe discussion outside of home can leave teens ignorant and vulnerable.
Here is what is so wrong about Pippin’s views.
Pippin claims that Anne Frank’s “original version” remains on the shelf in the Middle School libraries and the Freshman Learning Center. Pippin’s claim is totally inaccurate. The most popular versions of Anne Frank’s Diary are not original versions of her actual, much longer diary. The closest we can get to Anne Frank’s complete Diary is Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, the Definitive Collection that is edited by Mirjam Pressler and includes previous unpublished material. Much fewer read the truest version. Frank’s actual Diary spans over 340 pages and includes what any teenage girl or boy is going to think about: relationships, desire, sex, and conflicted feelings. Contrary to what Pippin believes, teens reading about a girl that touches her own breasts, feels ecstasy when looking at a statue, and asks to kiss her friend and touch her are very real feelings for many teens. Frank offers a safe place for particularly girls to read and identify with, that their own feelings are not “pornographic” or lewd, that such is a natural part of life. Schools have to stop running away from real, practical sex education.
The “original” versions of Anne Frank’s Diary that Pippin refers to are heavily censored and provide a minimized if not false characterization of who Annelies Marie Frank really was. This is not just a problem at Vero Beach High School, it’s a problem at almost every high school in the United States. The Anne Frank most of us read is not the real Anne Frank.
Pippin goes on to state that the statues in the book are “sexually explicit” and “not a true adaptation of the Holocaust.” Is Pippin an expert on the Holocaust? Does she understand the definition of sexually explicit? Nude statues are not sexually explicit. Nude statues are every place, including many religious institutions. The naked body is not a crime and nudity by itself is not explicit. There would have to be an explicit act taking place or the figure would have to be what one would see on Porn Hub. I worked on child pornography cases. Pippin’s claim is egregious, inappropriate, and down right abusive to Anne Frank’s natural feelings as they are related in her Diary. Second, Anne Frank’s Diary does not address the Holocaust hardly at all, so what “adaptation to the Holocaust” is she referring to? The revised books she claims are real are heavily censored and redacted versions of Anne’s history. Those on the school shelves may mischaracterize who Frank was.
Anne Frank’s story is about her isolation with her family because of the war. Though the Holocaust is in the background, Frank hardly refers to the camps. So, while certainly related to the Holocaust—we read her Diary because she was silenced, humiliated, and murdered by the Nazis like millions of others—her book is about her life, not her death at the hands of Green Police and SS. It is about a girl’s feelings that just wants to be a teenager. And being a teenager means having sexual feelings. Pippin should not get to decide what kind of manufactured teenager Anne Frank and Vero Beach High School students should be. We should see them as they are. Pippin’s so-called quest for truth is nothing more than a revisionist excuse to withhold truth and certainly Anne Frank’s own liberty.
Pippin also defends the Chapter’s decision by noting that there are hundreds of other books on Anne Frank that don’t discuss “the specific subjects.” But these are the subjects that are critical for teenagers—that are approaching young adulthood—to understand. More important is that these hundreds of books about Anne Frank are not written by Anne Frank. The statue incident among many others is Frank’s actual voice and feelings. Frank may not be the kind of girl Pippin likes, but that is irrelevant. Anne Frank knows more about being a female Jewish teenager than Pippin knows about the Holocaust or Anne Frank.
Here is the defining quote from Pippin: “We will never challenge the accurate diary of Anne Frank’s books,” she said. “True history needs to be taught.”
If Pippin actually believes truth and in liberty, she would not support the erroneous remaking and silencing of the real Annelies Marie Frank. It this case, Pippin should encourage the library to buy Anne Frank’s definitive edition, where Frank provides relevant sex education advice to teens and describes the female anatomy in detail in a non-pornographic way.
Frank even uses humor to point to the silliness of adults when it comes to sex education. Here is Anne Frank’s joke in my own words. The boy asked his dad where babies came from. The dad said the stork goes out, grabs babies bobbling from the ocean and brings one to mother when she is in bed. Then it pecks her so hard on the thigh that she bleeds for two weeks. The boy, not convinced, then askes his grandfather. He gets the same story, so then he asks his great grandfather. He gets the same story. The boy concludes that his family has not had sex in three generations.
Anne Frank was also funny and could laugh in spite of the horrors she was experiencing, and that is the sad part of all of this. Pippin and others are so worried about anything with a hint of sex or nudity in it that they are willing to wipe out and remanufacture the truth and then ban a teenage girl’s actual experiences while claiming such is the truth.
There is a reason why experts and true educators need to make these decisions. We know who Anne Frank really was. Consider this: Here we are finding the words of a teenage girl pornographic who wrote in the early 1940s. This begs the question: What on earth is happening to us? This is not about liberty and parental freedom, it’s about singular dominance and control over thought. We all need free access to information. Then it’s our choices that determine what we read. Limiting information, censoring books, leads to ignorance. We see that in full display here.
Individual parents and teens can make these decisions for themselves. We do not need a communist-style chapter telling us what our kids can and cannot read. Schools are a safe environment to discuss sexual feelings and development. The last thing we should do is discourage it.
Finally, in all of this discussion, where are the teen girls? Why not ask them? Where are their voices in all of this? Fifteen through eighteen-year-olds are not babies or little girls. These are young women, minors, but young women. It’s high time they have their own chapter, not one that tries to mimic their best interests when clearly Pippin’s values political interests over the wellbeing and liberty of high school students.
Earl Yarington (LMSW) is a social worker and school bus driver. He taught literature and writing for nearly 20 years and spent 3 years working in forensic social work internships with offending populations, including work at Delaware Correctional facilities and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He has a PhD in literature and criticism (feminism/women writers) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Master of Social Work from Louisiana State University, and an interdisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts from Arizona State University, where he studied the impact of visual image and girlhood in media/social media. He also has an MA and BS in English from SUNY College at Brockport. The opinions and analyses that Earl writes are his own and are not necessarily the positions or views of his employers, the agencies he supports, or that of his colleagues. Reach out with comments or questions.