Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl - stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.
It amazes me how many of the books that I read as a child/young adult have become apart of my soul. They speak comfort to me and feel like a little piece of home. Anne Frank's diary is one such book. I can't tell you when I first read it. I think it was about sixth or seventh grade, maybe younger. I also can't tell you how many times I've read it, because I've lost count. My copy's spine is well worn, the pages are yellowed, and it has that amazing old book smell. The pages are marked and passages are stared and/or highlighted, and every time I pick it up, I'm transported back to a younger version of myself.
It's safe to say that this is one of my favorite books, but it has been years since I have read its pages. I was recently watching The Fault in Our Stars and in the movie Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. After watching the film, I had the urge to pick it up again. It's not an extraordinary book, in fact, many could dismiss it as the inconsequential musing of a teenage girl, but for me, it is a book that will forever live in my heart. As a young adult, I identified with Anne's longing to be understood, to find real connections, and to be loved. As an adult, I appreciate the wisdom she had, wisdom that far exceeded her 15 years and was born out of experiences that we can only imagine.
World War II and the Holocaust have always fascinated me. This time period is so full of contradictions and strong convictions, and is perhaps the best example of what is both good and evil in the human race. I was amazed then, and continue to be amazed at Anne's ability to hope, to have faith in the face of such adversity. Like Anne, I experienced some things growing up that made me grow up quickly. There were times that I wanted to give in, take the easy way out, and wallow in self-pity. There is a passage from Anne's diary that struck me as incredibly powerful the first time I read it, and has stayed with me all these years later. It is towards the end of her diary, one of the last entries she writes. It says:
Anyone who claims that the older folks have a more difficult time in the Annex doesn't realize that the problems have a far greater impact on us. We're much too young to deal with these problems, but they keep thrusting themselves on us until, finally, we're forced to think up a solution, though most of the time our solutions crumble when faced with the facts. It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams 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 truly good at heart.
Even as an adult, these words ring true for me. It is a lesson that I will always carry in my heart. This is why books, especially the ones we read as young adults, are so powerful. It's hard for me to say if I would have the same reaction to this book had I not read it as a young adult, but nevertheless, this diary is something that everyone should read at least once. It's pages are filled with such beautiful messages, many of which ring true across time. It was good to be reminded.
2015 Reading Challenge: A nonfiction book