Monday, January 18, 2010

Memoir Monday: Anne Frank

This picture of Margot, Otto, Anne, and Edith Frank was taken in Amsterdam (1941) right before they went into hiding.

After having to admit that somehow I managed to get this far in my life and had never read Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, I went out a bought a copy. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how moved I was by it. What happened to all those innocent people at the hands of Adolf Hitler was horrific, and yet you can't help but be inspired by the words and insights of this teenage girl.

I am not going to do a lengthy review or even summarize it (too much). It's been done a thousand times over by almost every high school and college student in the world. We all know what it's about, and if you don't you should run right out and grab a copy.

I will say this...

Anne Frank's diary from the 25 months she, her family, and 4 others spent in hiding gives a chilling account of the effects of World War II. But there are so many other lessons to be learned from this book, depending on what perspective you read it from. Preteens and teens can relate to the angst and loneliness Anne writes about and adults are reminded that these feelings of wanting to be understood and loved are real, universal, and timeless.

As my Memoir Mondays are focused on the craft of writing, I will talk about Anne Frank's diary from the prospective of a writer. What could a teen age girl from World War II teach about writing? You would be amazed. Had she lived, Anne Frank would have written many beautiful stories and undoubtedly would have achieved her dream of being a journalist.

Here's what I learned about Anne Frank as a writer.
  1. Anne had all of the important characteristics needed to be a successful writer.

  • A curiosity of human nature (but also an innate ability to understand the negative and positive aspects of human nature)

  • Ability to observe (both herself & others)

  • Humour

  • Able to honestly report her observations

  • An eagerness to learn

  • A willingness to work hard

  • Incredible Resiliency

2. Anne, as young as she was, could combine all of these in her writing and yet was always trying to understand more to improve. Having all of these characteristics, usually found in adults, and the heart and innocence of a child made Anne Frank the voice of World War II victims and an inspiration to the world.

Her dream of being a journalist was not achieved, but her wish to go on living after her death continues to come true through her diary. She understood and respected the power of the written word at a very young age and because of that gave the world a gift that will last for many lifetimes.

My favorite example of her understanding of this power is also the reason she gives for starting a diary. She talks about her longing for a true friend and decides to treat her diary as if she were communicating with a friend (Kitty). Anne expresses her belief that writing thoughts on paper was better than telling someone and mentions the old saying, "paper is more patient than man."

I did not start this book expecting to include it in my Memoir Monday series. I expected a sobering account of a terrible time in our world's history. I certainly found that, but as I read I also found myself amazed with Anne Frank's ability to capture so much more. She was more than a young Jewish girl who died at the orders of a psychopath. She was a teenager trying to figure out what it meant to be a daughter, sister, friend, and most importantly who she would become as an adult. She helped reinforce my own belief, that learning is a lifelong process no matter how long your life is.

Thanks for stopping by for Memoir Monday. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on Anne Frank's diary. The book touched me in so many ways, heartbreaking and inspiring. I hope that if you haven't read it you make some time this year to. You won't regret it.

Kristin : )


  1. I'm the one who suggested on Twitter yesterday that you check out Francine Prose's book. I'll harp on it again :-) because Prose's book also looks at the Diaries from a literary perspective. For example, I had no idea that Anne had started rewriting her journals with an eye towards publication, and the published version was the rewritten one, not the original. Who knew? So interesting. And she was a mighty advanced writer for someone so young. Just think what she might have done.

  2. Ok Amy, you've convinced me :) I'm going to find Francine Prose's book on this. I did find myself wondering if, and by who, the diary was rewritten before publication. They are usually more free flowing & hers seemed pulled together so neatly.

    Thanks for you comment & suggestion. They both are much appreciated.


  3. The unfulfilled possibilities of a life cut off too soon, and the horror of what man can do. So much contained in one book. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Kristin. Dani ddh77