A mother in Northville, Michigan has filed a formal complaint with her daugher’s school district, claiming that passages in Anne Frank’s diary are too graphic for a seventh grade class.
Parent Gail Horalek told the Northville Patch that the school should have asked for the parents’ permission before assigning the book, or at least sent a written warning, as is done for other “sensitive material.”
“If they watch any kind of movie with a swear word in it, I have to sign a permission slip,” she said.
The passage that Horek comes from the unedited, “definitive” version of the diary, in which the teenager writes about her own genitalia:
To paraphrase internet celebrity Chris Crocker, Leave Justin Alone.
Let’s start with two things we don’t know. First, we don’t really know anything about Justin Bieber. All of our opinions about him are mediated by publicists, reporters, bloggers, and lots and lots of spin.
Second, we don’t know that much about Anne Frank. We do know that she had posters of teen idols up on her wall, and that she was hardly the saintly figure her hagiographers have created. That too is a product of spin.
So, when Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam — not a usual stop on the teen-idol itinerary — and wrote: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber,” we are all free to come to our own uninformed conclusions.
Personally, I’m pretty sure Anne Frank would’ve been a Belieber. The point of freedom is not for 13-year-old girls to be martyrs or saints, but for them to be young girls, full of the same lightness and triviality that young girls (and boys) everywhere are, if they are lucky. Let’s not hold our icons so solemnly.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
I learned recently of a brand new app, “Anne’s Amsterdam,” which provides all sorts of digital details, both personal and geographical, about Anne Frank and her city. I can’t say I’m surprised.
In the years since the publication of her diary, Anne Frank’s life and times — and above all, her house, which has been made into a museum — have lent themselves to a staggering array of iterations, prompting Ian Buruma famously to observe that “about the only thing we haven’t seen so far is Anne Frank on Ice.”
Likening her to a “Jewish Saint Ursula, a Dutch Joan of Arc, a female Christ,” Buruma, some thought, went a bit too far. But if the response of some of Anne Frank’s acolytes and devotees to the news that the chestnut tree to which Miss Frank had referred in her diary was to be cut down is any indication, he may not have gone far enough. A hue and cry of enormous proportions ensued, with some insisting that fragments of the tree be preserved and venerated much as if they were bits of the cross itself.
Earlier this week, Leigh Stein revealed one of her early aspirations: to “Be Anne Frank.” Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
My fascination with New Mexico began in 2007, when I moved to Albuquerque sight unseen to write my first novel, “The Fallback Plan.” The state is nicknamed “The Land of Enchantment,” and that’s one of the reasons I moved there, from the less exotic “Land of Lincoln.” In general, I found the people there to be very open to talking about unsolved mysteries — ghosts and disappearances, aliens and conspiracies. A neighbor told me that the Sandia Mountains were partly “fake,” built by the government to hide missiles near the air force base. Another said he’d seen la llorona in the shallow waters of the Rio Grande.
So I don’t generally associate the American Southwest with the Jewish Diaspora, but I do associate it with ghosts. And last spring, I went back to the Southwest on a kind of working vacation, to soak in some sunshine and work on a new book project, which is partly set there. I took a tour in Santa Fe and learned about one of the city’s most famous ghosts, a German Jew named Julia Staab, who died in 1896 and now haunts La Posada Hotel.
Leigh Stein’s debut novel, “The Fallback Plan,” is now available. Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
Before I’d settled on acting or writing, my greatest aspiration was simply to “Be Anne Frank,” and when I was 12, I auditioned for the title role in a community theater production of the Goodrich and Hackett play. I’m pretty sure I was one of the few, if not the only, Jew(s) to audition (in a town known for its Evangelical Christian college), and I thought I had it in the bag. All they had to do, I thought, was look at my last name and cast me immediately, to lend credibility to their production.
At callbacks, it was between me and one other Anne. I wore a plaid skirt and a pale sage cardigan with tiny rosebuds around the collar. I parted my dark hair on the side. While the other Anne smiled and laughed and generally behaved like she was at a food court in the mall, I delivered my lines with gravitas. I looked at the imaginary sky with longing. I was sarcastic, but never silly. I never let myself forget that Anne was a victim of the Holocaust, and it was my job on stage to honor that fact. More than anything, I felt I deserved to be Anne because I knew her so intimately after reading her diaries.
Shocker: the other Anne got cast. “But you look so much like her,” the director told me on the phone, as a consolation prize. “It was really tough.”
The remains of the tree that Anne Frank saw in her neighbor’s yard while she was in hiding from the Nazis is in legal limbo while the foundation organized to preserve it battles the contractor they hired to do so. Ever since it fell last August, Jewish museums in Berlin, New York and Amsterdam have been said to be interested in obtaining remnants of the 150 year old chestnut tree. But a local contractor named Rob van der Leij is owed close to $50,000 and won’t release the remains of the tree until the legal mess is resolved.
Now a world class sculptor named Brad Sells of Cookeville, Tenn., has made a bid for a portion of the famed tree, which was 70 feet tall and was suffering from a fungal infection when it came down. Sells wants to make a sculpture and donate it to a Holocaust museum.
“It’s a pretty stable wood. I think I could make a beautiful piece of art out of it,” Sells told The Arty Semite in a phone interview.
If Anne Frank hadn’t died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March, 1945, she might have turned a grand 82 years old on June 12. It’s useless to try and imagine what she — or the world — would have been like had she survived. What is certain, however, is that Frank is as present in the public consciousness as ever.
In one of the quirkier stories to come out in recent weeks, the Jewish Chronicle reported that a London theater company is taking their production of “And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank” on its second tour of China only months after a sold-out first run. As the article points out, China has a unique relationship to the Holocaust. Not only did the country suffer brutally under Japanese occupation, but it also provided a safe haven to tens of thousands of Jewish refugees in Shanghai. In addition to the story of Anne Frank, Chinese interest in the Holocaust also includes the recent animated film, “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai,” which The Arty Semite covered when it screened at the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, and which is currently making the rounds of Jewish film festivals worldwide.
A new exhibit at Brandeis University displays two works by Felix Lembersky, painter of the Babi Yar massacre.
Has there been an effort to downplay Anne Frank’s Jewishness?
“Naked Balzac With Folded Arms,” a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, has been stolen from the Israel Museum.
Husband-wife team Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman are developing a project at HBO called “Hobgoblin” that portrays a group of conmen and magicians who battle Hitler during World War II.
“The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank has inspired numerous dramatic works since its publication in English 1952. There was a Broadway play in 1955 by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett which won the Pulitzer Prize; an adaptation of the play for film in 1959; a 1980 television movie also written by Goodrich and Hackett; and an ABC miniseries in 2001, not to mention reams of nonfiction that examine the girl and the book.
But this is nothing compared to the drama backstage: The feud between Meyer Levin (1905–1981), the journalist who first reviewed Frank’s book for the New York Times, and Frank’s father, Otto.
Levin had obtained permission to adapt the book for the stage, but was later replaced by Goodrich and Hackett. Levin, a respected writer and Zionist, won an Edgar award for his 1957 book “Compulsion,” a “non-fiction novel” (a style later used by Truman Capote in “In Cold Blood”) about the Leopold and Loeb case. Other works include the novel “The Settlers” (1972) and “The Obsession,” his autobiographical volume on his battle for the diary.
Rinne Groff’s play “Compulsion,” opening at The Public Theater February 17 following productions by Yale Repertory Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre (read the Forward’s review of the Yale production here) follows Sid Silver, a Levin-like character played by Mandy Patinkin, through his quest to adapt Frank’s diary. The Arty Semite caught up with Groff the morning after the first New York preview.
Gwen Orel: Why did you write this play?
In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish performances of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.
Hapless Hooligan in ‘Still Moving’
What happens when you put a prominent modern dance company in a room with one of the great innovators of the graphic novel? The answer in this case was “Hapless Hooligan,” a collaboration between Pilobolus Dance Theater and Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” series. Premiering this past July at the Joyce Theater, the vaudeville-esque piece included an animated sequence based on Spiegelman’s drawings, which was projected onto a backdrop for the dancers to interact with. Though somewhat unorthodox, “Hapless Hooligan” was a creative gamble that paid off.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘Hapless Hooligan in Still Moving’ here.
The New York literary scene may currently be all caught up in Book Expo America, but in Toronto a smaller literary celebration is being held tonight at the Canadian Jewish Book Awards. Among the honorees are Robin McGrath for her Newfoundland-based novel, “The Winterhouse” (Killik Press) David Sax for his book, “Save the Deli” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Winnipeg historian Allan Levine for his comprehensive “Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba.”
One of the most impressive winners, however, is a book of essays by Toronto poet Kenneth Sherman titled “What the Furies Bring” (Porcupine’s Quill), in the Jewish Thought & Culture category. As Sherman notes in his introduction, the essays are a response, of sorts, to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when he began pondering the role of literature in confronting cataclysmic world events.
Someone on the grounds crew at the Corporation of Yaddo, the artists colony in Saratoga Springs N.Y., has a sense of humor. In the “Breast Room” (so-called because Philip Roth wrote “The Breast” while residing in it) of the West House building, the shower is mislabeled. When one turns the dial from off at the bottom, through C, to H at the top, the water gets (and stays) cold. However, if one moves the lever just above the off switch where one would assume the cold would be, hot water comes blasting out. Clearly, someone was encouraging Roth to take a cold shower when he stayed here. And, how different literature would be if he had.
Or maybe the installer of this shower was encouraging those writers residing here to learn the lesson, of “getting hot water when the tap says ‘cold.’” This could certainly be the story of my own writing life, persisting in writing, realizing that even though I’ve gotten plenty of rejections and cold water thrown in my face, the hot water is still there if only I know how to get to it. In this case, all I had to do was ask the groundskeeper; I wish it were only so easy to find an agent to start turning cold water to hot.