A few thoughts on Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation

Beware of the headlines. Stories about this teacher’s firing are drawing attention because some dishonest people are writing headlines that the teacher was fired for assigning “The Diary of Anne Frank.” That’s not true.

The truth of this story is that the teacher in an eighth grade class in Texas assigned “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation” and it is a different story. This is not the original book but a graphic adaptation, as the title states. The graphic edition remains faithful to the original. There are illustrations that interpret the story. It is more like a supplement to the original, not a book that is trying to replace the original or even re-write the original. What the graphic adaption does do is include parts from Anne’s diary that are not normally seen in the original version.

I have not read this edition but I looked up some reviews when I read the misleading tweet from Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. When she says something, she should always be fact-checked. In this case, the Twitter community added context to her tweet. By misleading, by the way, I mean she likely worded it to make Texas look bad. See, those extreme right-winger Texans are banning books… She is not to be trusted. Ever.

She conveniently leaves out the fact that it is an adaption, implying it is the original book.

This controversy isn’t even a new one. Other school boards have complained about this version. Why? Well, because the word vagina is used, Anne mentions she asked a friend to look at each other’s breasts, and she talks about menstruation. She also doesn’t approve of her father’s marriage, apparently. None of this is shocking stuff for a girl who received a diary on her 13th birthday and becomes curious about her body and growing up. She wrote about these things in her diary. Her father was given Anne’s diary upon her death and he worked to organize the papers and get the diary published. He didn’t include the more controversial material. He had editorial control of the manuscript.

Here are a couple of examples of reviews from non-progressive sources.

“Mr. Folman has succeeded in capturing the humor and vitality of the diaries—the hilarious sarcasm, the passionate declarations, the contemplative self-reproach—without a trace of retrofitted sentimentality. He owes much to David Polonsky’s sublime illustrations. Every one of Anne’s flights of fancy finds a thrilling and ingenious visual representation. . . . A wonderful, full-page composite image of Anne in her many moods—dreamy, snarky, silly, pensive, outraged or lovesick—is a reminder that the diaries are less about a life’s senseless destruction than about a brilliant young woman eternally coming into being.” —The Wall Street Journal

“I wanted to dislike Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation because books about Anne usually feel opportunistic or simplistic. But this comic-book version, authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation, is a monumental achievement. In large part that’s because it wears its importance lightly. . . . [I]t captures Anne’s teenage-ness: her love of drama, her rabid jealousy of her perfect sister, Margot, her appreciation of the physical comedy provided by the tacky van Daan adults. She feels like a real person, not a symbol. And there’s so much humor in these illustrations! Polonsky draws kinetically, varying panel size and bringing in little jokes and references from art history and advertising. He draws Anne with mobile, animated features and huge eyes. Folman nimbly provides historical context the original diary lacks; this version clarifies what was happening in the outside world as Anne was writing. But Folman also includes several full pages of unfiltered, unillustrated diary pages, showing real respect for Anne’s writerly voice. In an afterword, Folman says he only used 5 percent of the entire original diary; it feels like much more.” —Tablet

The graphic adaptation is done almost like a comic book. It engages the reader with humor and wit, according to reviews. It seems to me it is an excellent way of getting students – perhaps high school age – interested in an important story. I can see why middle school parents might object because of the more mature material but high school students can handle it. It’s not porn, they are Anne’s words and part of the diary.

In Vero Beach, Florida, the book was removed when Moms for Liberty issued a complaint. The book was removed temporarily in one Texas school district, Keller Independent School District, but it didn’t last long. After review, it was returned to school libraries.

I’m a reader. I don’t like book bans. It’s an individual’s choice whether to read a book or not. In the case of school assignments, it’s different. Young children have no business reading soft porn in classrooms. Teachers have to use discretion, as do school boards. I’m coming down on the side of letting eighth graders read the graphic adaption. Anne Frank was 14 when she wrote this. Eighth grade students are 13-14 years old. Anne was their age when she wrote it. It isn’t some pervy adult writer trying to indoctrinate children.

According to some reports, the teacher asked for a discussion on molestation. That’s a bridge too far. She should have known better. She showed poor judgement.

This sounds like a good supplement to the original that may get more school children interested in an important piece of history. Not for little kids. High school freshman are 14. They would be able to handle it.

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