The Diary of a Young Girl
Puffin Modern Classics
Ms. Hen decided to read this book again because she was bored at work one day, and happened to look at Wikipedia, and it was Anne Frank’s birthday, so she decided to read the Wikipedia article. She found out that this new edition was released after the death of Anne’s father Otto, and the book contained previously unpublished material. Anne received her diary as a gift for her thirteenth birthday.
Ms. Hen originally read this book when she was a young hen her freshman year of high school, which was a long time ago. She had a different experience reading the book this time. When she read it before, she was the exact age as Anne when she died in the concentration camp. Ms. Hen didn’t realize it then, but now she thinks that’s extraordinary.
This is a story everyone knows. Anne is a young Jewish girl in Amsterdam in the 1940s, and her family goes into hiding because the Jewish residents are being taken away. They have all heard the rumors of the concentration camps and how the people are starved and gassed. Anne hides with her parents and sister, and four others.
A lot of the book is about the problems Anne has with her mother and the cohabitants in hiding. Anne was a positive girl, and she looked at going into hiding as an adventure. She had dreams for her life, and she wanted to be a journalist, a writer, also to travel, and study art history. She was philosophical at a young age; she seemed to have a lot of thoughts about humanity and the way the world works. She writes about the older people versus the younger people in the annex, and she says, “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them, because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are good at heart.” Ms. Hen doesn’t know how a young girl in hiding from the Nazis could still believe that people are good. This made Ms. Hen think of her own life.
When Ms. Hen read the book this time, she thought back to what she was like when she was fifteen and she read it then. She wondered how she would have managed if she had been in an annex hiding from the Nazis. Ms. Hen was not a positive teenager; she was young in the 80s, and a lot of teenagers then were caught up in gloom and doom, the disillusionment that the Reagan administration gave to ordinary young people. The romantic notions of the hippies of the 60s became the excess of the 80s. That was a time of affluence: people weren’t fighting a war, they were fighting with their apathy and indecision about the distorted state of society. This was the time of the Material Girl, We are living in a Material World and I am a Material Girl, as the song went. A lot of teenagers fought against this ideal, but some did not and got sucked into it. Some of us were hiding in our rooms listening to the Cure, trying not to think about how terrible the world was to us and how our future was bleak.
Ms. Hen came to the conclusion that she would not have been the exact same person as Anne Frank when she was locked in the annex, but she was her own person, locked in a prison of her own mind. Anne lived forty years before Ms. Hen, and the world was completely different then. The book also made Ms. Hen wonder about the society now, and how much has changed since she was young. She wondered about the fifteen year old girl today, and what she is like, and what troubles she must have, which Ms. Hen can imagine are enormous.
This book made Ms. Hen think a lot about her life and youth, and the way everything has changed. She didn’t get all that the first time she read the book in 1988, which was almost thirty years ago. The good news is that Ms. Hen is not as morose as she was a teenager. She knows there’s nothing we can do about the past, and there’s nothing we can do yet about the future, we have to learn to live day by day and embrace life as it comes. Which, incidentally, is the way Anne lived her life in the annex. Reading this confirms Ms. Hen’s philosophy on how to live. Enjoy yourself as much as you can, do what you have to do, and try to be find as much happiness as possible.