Michigan mom says “Diary of Anne Frank” too sexual for 7th grade

A Michigan mom is upset that her 7th grade daughter is reading an unedited version of Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl.”

Because nothing says “teaching kids about the Nazis” like censoring books.

The book is the diary of a young German Jewish girl who hid with her family from the Nazis for two years in a small attic in Amsterdam.  They were betrayed by a confidant, and sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where Anne died with her sister mere weeks before the British liberated the camp.

Anne Frank’s diary is considered a classic of world literature.

Anne Frank, from "Anne Frank: Her life in words and pictures from the archives of The Anne Frank House."

Anne Frank, from “Anne Frank: Her life in words and pictures from the archives of The Anne Frank House.”

The Michigan mom says her concern is not with the Holocaust theme of the book, but rather the portions in which the 13 year old girl chronicles some of her sexual awakening, at least as it concerns discovering her own body.

This is the passage of Anne Frank’s book that has the mom filing a formal complaint:

Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris.

Apparently her daughter was so uncomfortable reading this paragraph that she no longer wanted to read the book.

I don’t have kids, so perhaps my reaction is uninformed.  But part of me would want to tell the kid to suck it up and read the damn book.  Anne Frank was a lot more uncomfortable going to Bergen-Belsen than any kid is reading about it.

Any parents out there?  What do you think?  First, do you think that passage adds anything to the overall mission of the book, or put another way, would it really detract from the book taking that passage out?  And how would you react, first to the passage, but second, if your child claimed to not to want to read the book because of that passage?  And finally, is it relevant that we’re talking about censoring a book about the Nazis, who, among other things, censored – and burned – books.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • timetwister4

    Is it possible you don’t remember the passage because the version you read was the edited version, which removed this passage among others? The unedited edition was not available until the mid 90s.

  • publicsteele

    I think anything that makes the book relatable by teenagers strengthens its message and so I am in favor of the unedited version. Miss Frank’s candid writing about discovering her body (in her isolation) puts her young age in context of the horrific world around her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640548360 Al Jensen

    Vaginas are scarier than Nazis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640548360 Al Jensen

    Hinting that there’s something a bit rebellious about books after all, and then pointing them in the right direction? Sounds like a great way to get teens to read!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Yes vagina there is a stork.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.dimatteo1 Richard DiMatteo

    Having read Simone DeBeauvois at 15 as well as Freud I find this kind of thing quite stupid. That may sound a bit harsh, but I cast aspersions in their zhenerall Dyerekshun..

  • http://profiles.google.com/jlsr3353 Jo Losturo

    I read this book whenI was about 13, yet don’t even remember the part you quoted–that’s how much opf an impression it made on me. I read “Boys and Girls Together” when I was 14. My advice for these people is A) grow up and, B) grow a pair! (And I don’t mean labia!)

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    If ya’s afraid of your Vagina, life gets very sad and very quickly. Hope that child doesn’t learn the facts of life the hard way at some woody party.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Sigh

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    So dat!

  • Houndentenor

    So much of literature aimed at children and adolescents is written by adults talking down to them. this was actually written by a girl their own age. It reads like something written by an intelligent adolescent and that’s what has fascinated readers with this book for so long now. We see Anne’s world through here eyes. That’s the experience we get from literature. Stop talking down to children and teens. They aren’t stupid. Inexperienced sometimes, but never dumb. An uncomfortable topic is an opportunity to talk to your children. The people who don’t want certain topics discussed aren’t talking to their kids about those topics at all except perhaps to make them dirty. Information isn’t going to turn your child into a nymphomaniac. In fact most of the kids I knew whose parents talked to them about sex weren’t the first to experiment with sex. That kind of mature open relationship with parents is far more likely to result in a teen who makes better choices. It’s sad that so many parents don’t understand that. It’s not like they can’t get this information from somewhere else. If you don’t talk to your kids about sex and their bodies, someone else will.

  • pappyvet

    ‘Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • bill moore

    in a nation of 330 million people there have to be what — 60-80 million lunatics and idiots;~ 25% of the population seems like a safe guess – so this woman is just one of those. the kid is uncomfortable reading that passage (if, in truth, she is) because she’s been raised in a warped environment. I raised four children (3 females), they all read the Diary, and it was important to them to learn about this wonderful spirit who survived for a while in an environment then controlled by people with whom this Michigan woman would have felt entirely comfortable.

  • lilyannerose

    As one who was born and raised in Michigan I have a thing or two to say to this woman – sit down, shut up and quit embarrassing me.

  • mwdavis

    The edition edited by her father and published in the 40’s — on which the book’s reputation rests — omitted the sexual passages. I don’t know that there is any particular literary or educational value [that requires] the unedited edition. If I was teaching it, I would probably opt for the edited version precisely because of America’s inherent prudery. I would, however, point out to the students that we are working from an edited version and give them some idea of the omitted topics. They can find the unedited version if they are sufficiently interested . . . meanwhile, there’s more than enough to learn from the book.

    Just my opinion. Just the way I approach teaching.

  • Ednahilda

    I, too, read the book in junior high school in the early 70’s and I don’t recall that passage being in it. We most certainly read the edited version.

  • Buford

    Paraphrasing a comedian I heard once: “In the US, you can’t show boobs to kids unless they have a knife jammed into them”.

  • http://twitter.com/BillFromDover Bill from Dover

    There is a lesson to be learned here regarding a sexual organ and an obviously ignorant mother.

    One we call a vagina, the other, a twat.

  • http://twitter.com/BillFromDover Bill from Dover

    Perhaps the mother just learned something about her own body that makes her uncomfortable?

  • http://twitter.com/BillFromDover Bill from Dover

    Abstinence-only, no doubt, as demanded by this mother.

  • http://twitter.com/BillFromDover Bill from Dover

    But, this is a special ghoul, he even helps with pickin’ popes.

  • citizen_spot

    Way back in the early 70’s, when I read the book in school, it most definitely did not have that passage. I really wish it had, because that would have been valuable information that I was not going to get from anywhere else until 9th grade sex ed.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Meanwhile, this same 7th grade girl will in all likelihood have seen hundreds of acts of violence on TV and in movies — assaults, stabbings, explosions, bloody injuries, sexual assaults, and murders.

    In America, sex = wrong, evil, and taboo, while violence = good, acceptable, even venerated.

    And we wonder why we’re such a psychically sick society.

  • George Melby

    Yeah, but you’re one of the “normal” parents!

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yeah, just had a feeling I shouldn’t assume, sadly

  • caphillprof

    Sex education is not so difficult as long as you first teach the parents.

  • Buford

    The average age of menarche is 12.5 years in the US… right smack in the middle of 7th grade… which means this mom wants to ‘save’ menstruating girls from reading about their genitalia.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Or if you want a child to grow up an be an expert and sensitive lover.

  • hola

    When my daughters entered junior high, I got them each a copy of “Our bodies, ourselves”, and told them it went into more detail about what we had already discussed. Each of them purchased the same book for their daughters. Any mother who does NOT help her daughter understand her body is ignoring one of the most important parts of being a mother. Good Grief!!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Well, I can believe it. Catholics believe that babies can come from a ghost.

  • nicho

    Gay boys and men too. Just so it doesn’t take us by surprise some day.

  • nicho

    Somebody needs to ask the mother why this makes her uncomfortable — preferably somebody in a psychotherapy practice.

  • nicho

    It is. Unfortunately.

  • dmichae1

    What do I think? I think if Michigan Mom’s daughter is so uncomfortable reading about a girl innocently learning about her body, that Michigan Mom has done a shitty job of raising her daughter.

    And I am a parent with a daughter, so there!

  • dave3137

    My main thought here is that you felt it necessary to explain who Anne Frank was.

  • UncleBucky

    AFTER? I thought it was very close to the end, but after? OMG. I shall check that out.

    That’s like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged by the Nazis very close to the liberation of the camp he was in. More reading.

    Thx. :)

  • UncleBucky

    Michigan. Pure…… well, Michigan.

    It’s the most SouthernIST state of the North, next to Wisconsin, next to parts of Minnesota, next to the Dakotas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003235380735 GK St Paul

    That’s what happens when you nurse til their five.

  • UncleBucky

    John, it’s Michigan. Or at least a part of Michigan that has a lot of this problem. I think the disease is spreading, tho. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.tyner1 Tony Tyner

    I’m a single dad with 3 girls and 1 boy. I know that they wouldn’t have had a problem with this because I never sheltered them to much. TO me it’s a beautiful passage about discovery and I would have encouraged my children to read it.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    You probably read an edited version

  • http://voenixrising.com/ Mark Alexander

    All I can say is…

  • nicho

    With a sexually repressed mother like this, the kid has bigger problems than which books she reads. Apparently, she’s already been made to feel ashamed of her body and her sexuality.

  • Sherri Santos

    Last time I read Anne Frank’s diary that wasn’t in it. But she did talk about her feelings for the boy and isn’t part of the message of the book is this beautiful “almost” woman, her growing sexuality and total love for life being cruelly snuffed out? If your daughter is already in 7th grade and you haven’t taught her about her body shame on you! Is she going to enter high school and refer to her genitals as “down there”? I am a mother of three girls and I agree this would have made a great “teachable moment”. If not, just tell her to skip over the parts that make her uncomfortable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elijah.shalis Elijah Shalis

    I apologize for how my state is becoming more and more like Michissippi every day.

  • benb

    The Michigan mom should’ve asked her daughter why the passage made her uncomfortable. Seems like a great teaching moment. But, now that I think about it, having to listen to classmates tell you their parents think your mom is behaving like an ass is a pretty good teaching moment, too.

  • Kes

    Interestingly enough, most of those portions of the book – as well as those in which Anne complained about her mother and intimated how she was attracted to the boy they were sheltering with – were edited out by Anne’s father when the first version of Diary was published. They were only added back in when her diary was published in total after his death.

    I’m the parent of a 7 year old and a 4 year old, both daughters, and they know the proper names of the parts of their body; ensuring children know the proper names and the basics about their anatomy is a natural precursor to later sex-ed and helps them tell what happened if (god forbid) they’re ever subjected to sexual molestation. I can understand a 7th grader being embarrassed reading about this kind of thing, and I might understand the mother’s concern if her daughter was expected to discuss it in class or relate it to her own experiences (thus giving the 7th grade boys no end of opportunity to humiliate and harass their female classmates). But if my daughter was just uncomfortable reading it, then the appropriate response would be to sit down with her and talk about why talking about portions of our body might make us uncomfortable, how society reacts to bodies (especially bodies of people who are female, intersex, and/or disabled, etc), and how we internalize those messages and end up feeling shame. It’d be a learning experience which is, y’know, kind of what school is supposed to be about. When I was in high school I was expected to read The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’d -love- to see this mother’s reaction to -that-.

  • seekerunfortunately

    who cares about the sexuality issue Her death 2 wks after war ended destroyed the innocence in my childhood, reality check!

  • Sean

    Michigan Mom is an uneducated dip shit

  • judybrowni

    Hmm, I don’t remember reading the labia thing back in the 1950s so either I read an expurgated version, or it didn’t “upset” me then.

    However, we had so little in the way of sex education back then, that for years I assumed I was malformed because I had labia (and Barbie didn’t.)

    Didn’t see a photograph of a woman’s nether regions until college, and it wasn’t until a slide show of labia at a feminist convention in the 1970s that I realized the diversity, and that I was simply part of the bell curve.

    So either way, labia in Anne Frank would seem to be a good thing, either educational, or no big deal, depending on the amount of sex ed in that school.

    Grow up, mom.

  • mirror

    I think it is in fact an important part of the book. The being a girl growing into adulthood and discovering yourself in isolation from all other women your age is part of what makes it so poignant and speak directly to young people, drawing them in on a personal level.

  • Martin

    I think every straight boy, and probably a more that a few straight men would do their current and or future sex partners a world of good by learning some basic female anatomy, as taught by Anne Frank. As for this being a problem for anyone, if you want to raise a child who cannot handle literature, homeschool your kid.

© 2014 AMERICAblog News. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS