The Diary of a Young Girl
When Sandy responded to my second-anniversary invitation with a suggestion to blog about Anne Frank, I felt a jolt. Why did Anne, whose diary was so important to me, rarely occur to me among authors who influenced me most? In my mind, authors were grown-up writers of stories for readers like me. My relationship to Anne was more intimate, as though we were one girl thrown into two very different circumstances.
It started with noticing that she and I shared the same June birthday. She wrote her diary, which I first read at thirteen, in a book she received in 1942 for her thirteenth birthday. Weeks later she and her family went into hiding from the Nazis. Others joined them, for a total of eight Jews in a confined space they could never leave. Though I knew she later died in a concentration camp, what captivated me at thirteen wasn’t the cruelty or injustice—what we know about Anne—but her diary itself.
She and I had so much in common: our birthday, our age, our love of writing, our occasional loneliness. Our differences were situational. I could go outdoors, make noise, choose my playmates, get away for an hour. What would it be like to live cooped up, nonstop for two years, with a handful of people I didn’t choose and didn’t always like? Would I still believe, like her, that people are really good at heart?
Anne introduced me to the possibility of a diary as more than a log of the day’s events. My earliest diary dates from age thirteen, probably after I read hers. It’s full of adolescent ramblings. Now I write morning pages for myself and this blog for you who read it, continuing a personal tradition that began with the diary of Anne Frank.
3/26/2018 09:12:11 am
I wonder what Anne would have done had she survived the war. Would she have become a writer, storyteller, missionary, psychologist? Or merely someone's wife and mom, leaving no bigger mark on the world?
I want to believe she would have left a deep mark on those around her, whether or not she pursued a profession or became famous. It might make a difference whether she survived because their hiding place remained undiscovered or if she entered but survived the concentration camp, as her father did.
3/26/2018 10:16:03 am
As of yesterday, my morning pages have become “Dear Rhonda” pages. I feel the need to talk to her and it enriches my focus when I write. I have so many questions that really no longer need answers. Her death is such a mystery to me.
Anne's diary entries began, "Dear Kitty." She wanted to think of it s a true friend, to whom she could confide anything and count on comfort and support--unlike conversations with her human friends, with whom said said she discussed only ordinary things. Talking (or writing) to a close human friend now absent offers a similar invitation to honesty, focus, and depth. I used to write letters sometimes to a loved one no longer alive. It would have been hard, maybe impossible, to write the same thoughts in any other form.
3/26/2018 04:11:58 pm
Thank you for this Corinne. I talk to Rhonda in my head, and also a bit on paper.
3/29/2018 07:54:18 am
I wonder how much thought she gave to being Jewish. The Franks were German citizens. Otto was a German officer who fought in World War I for Germany against the Allies. German was her first language. Otto saw what was hovering and brooding in and over Germany and decided to move his family to the Netherlands (Holland). That meant learning the Dutch language (not too far distant linguistically from German.) Yet it meant being displaced from Anna's "everything she knew and felt comfortable with." She was displaced from her school friends, etc.
Do you remember what answer you gave, and would it be the same now? My college German history professor, in a lecture not an exam, walked us through a scenario set in Oberlin, our college town: If the town council moved black families to the south side, would you do anything? If they then save part of town only for whites, and on and on. (Back before most of that was illegal.) That has always stuck with me, too.
3/29/2018 02:39:50 pm
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.