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>If Anne Frank lived

>I’m working this week on a speech about the shifting sands of YA literature (to be given at the Center for Children’s Books on March 2, come on down) and the latest news about Anne Frank has me thinking about how central her diary has been to YA. Do you think we would have even had such a flourishing genre of Holocaust memoirs and novels had it not been for that book’s impact? I wish someone more knowledgeable than I could tell us if, as I suspect, such books have a longer and richer history in YA and children’s than they do in adult books. In this country, anyway–a colleague speculates that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas won more unreserved acclaim in the U.K. than it did here because our young readers expect more sophistication from books about the Holocaust.

The irony of the news of the Franks’ attempt to emigrate to the U.S. is, of course, that if they had, there would be no Diary, and thus, no news.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Jordan Sonnenblick says:

    >Very interesting . . . I saw the Anne Frank article in the NYT today and had those same thoughts re: irony. Kind of reminds me of a discussion I had with a bunch of other YA writers about Kurt Vonnegut, for whom we all were expressing great admiration as a writer. Someone said, “Would KV have been KV without the bombing of Dresden?”

    It’s a disturbing train of thought, to say the least.

  2. KT Horning says:

    >There wouldn’t have been The Diary, of course, but don’t you think there would have been other writing from Anne Frank?

    One of the things that intrigues me is a comment I once came across from one of the Frank family friends about it being a shame Margot’s diary didn’t survive, since she was the real writer in the family.

  3. >Yes, and that raises an important point. Was it the holocaust that made that book important or was it Anne?

  4. >I think it was a combination of both, the atrocities of the holocaust told by a young girl and the young girl herself.

    Interesting comment about the difference between young readers here and in the UK. It has merit. But quite honestly, IMHO I can’t even begin to contemplate Pajamas as being anywhere as important to literature.

    Odd that this post was about Holocaust literature as I started reading Dark Hours by Gudrun Pausewang this afternoon at lunch.

  5. >That’s where I would disagree, Lynn. I think it was Anne that made the book important. And the reason for the proliferation of holocaust books is that everyone wants to write an important book and they think if they take an important event like the holocaust it will cast a holy and important glow across the endeavor and they are home free. But we know it is not true. Joan Didion makes an interesting point that it always the voice we fall in love with, not the subject matter.

  6. Andy Laties says:

    >Well — and — suppose it hadn’t been a diary but a blog?

    They say that historians of the future will regard the past few years as the beginning of a terribly tragic loss of information, since “casual” records of daily life such as diaries and letters are being replaced with electronic media that are much more difficult to research and which are at greater risk of loss/erasure.

    (Are the brilliant conversations we’re having here doomed to oblivion? Is anyone printing out the gajillions of blogs? (Or, even, her/his own?))

  7. >anonymous implies that opportunism is responsible for all holocaust books. UNFAIR! think of Joanna Reiss, Ida Vos and others who have told their own stories. better yet, READ their books

  8. >No, anonymous does not imply that opportunism is responsible for ALL the holocaust books. She says that a good number of the ones that aren’t good, aren’t good for this reason. It is always the individual human light that is sancrosanct, not the event. And that when we love books, it is inevitably because of the voice. I suggest that you like Joanna REsiss’s voice etc. That if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have cared for the books.

  9. >sorry to join in late. while AF’s diary is immensely popular, the genre of holocaust memoir actually came much later, after the Eichman trial in Israel (1960), and in America much more as a product of the 60s, roots, and then Schindler’s List. Even in my family poeple really did not talk about the Holocaust in a personal way until then.

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