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Parents censor Anne Frank. Miep would be disappointed.

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You know what makes me angry?  Aside from lite jazz?  When parents feel the need to step in and censor childrens’ libraries.  This time, not only the thesaurus, but Anne Frank is under attack.

A more graphic version of Anne Frank‘s diary is no longer available for students to read in Culpeper County, Va.

Unlike other editions, this version contains sexual references. Apparently Anne Frank’s father, who survived the Holocaust, also felt the need to censor his daughter’s most intimate thoughts. He eliminated about a third of the original diary published in 1947.

Here’s what I really hate about this kind of censorship: it makes kids unprepared for the real world.  How do I know this?  I learned 90% of what I didn’t learn about physically (and mentally) growing up  in health class from books like  Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, and anything by V.C. Andrews.  Once, when I was nine, I asked my parents how the whole baby thing goes down and my mom let me check out a book from the library that described the process in cartoons for kids.  I never had to ask her again.

Judging from the comments to the awesome (but now unfortunately defunct) series Fine Lines on Jezebel,  that’s how most girls my age learned about sexuality, the  fertility cycle, and boy stuff.  Here are Lizzie Skurnik’s fond remembrances of  Are You There, God, and The Cat Ate My Gymsuit.

How many times have you learned something from a book that sticks with you in a way that something from class never does and that you can apply in real life?  From A Little Princess and The Secret Garden I learned that British people lived in India and the word memsahib and about English moors and London fog.  From Are You There, God, I learned that there were other half-Jews just like me that felt in two separate worlds, and from Heidi, I learned about the Alps of Switzerland and when I actually did go to Switzerland the book and Alm Uncle was playing in my mind the whole time.

How are kids ever going to learn anything real and non sugar-coated if we keep censoring things from them?  Granted, there is a time and place for everything, but I can’t say that I was scarred from the fact that my mom let me run wild over all of the sections of the public library.  Are we supposed to ban books every time they contain sexuality and “inappropriate” scenes as determined by a group of angry overprotective parents?  Like the fact that Are you There, God talks about the word menstruation (menst-ROO-ation) or that The Hobbit contains multiple scenes of death?  Or this other list of tons of banned books that are essential to the cannon of Western literature?

I’m not a parent yet so maybe I’m missing something, but this whole situation just seems sad to me.

15 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. I was like that, too. My parents let me read ANYTHING. It’s done nothing but good to my understanding of things, my divergence of reading material and my vocabulary.
    I read “Lord of the Flies” at 13, when the librarian at school thought it was too early for me. My parents got it for me. Amazing education and hey! surprizingly enough, I didn’t grow up to be a psychopath maniac.
    And Marinka is right.

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  2. I just heard about this the other day. Until the censorship issue came out, I didn’t even know that the original diary was missing anything. The funny thing is that once the parents complained, the book was just banned without question.

    Children and teenagers are blasted with inappropriate content from TV, movies, Internet, and even cell phones. I’m sure those same parents who would ban books don’t even check those other sources.

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    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Neither did I, actually. I always thought the diary was whole.

      Maybe these are the same parents making a huge deal about sexting?

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  3. It is a sad story. These parents are creating problems that don’t exist without their ever so important parental influence.

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    • How do parents even know what’s going on? I remember it was impossible to get to board meetings.

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  4. That is indeed very sad.

    I am a fan of advising (definitely not prohibiting) kids what to read at certain age. Some books simply can not be ‘digested’ by very young minds. For example someone asked me recently if I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I did not…The truth is that I started reading it when I was entirely too young to relate or truly understand the content. Ultimately I abandoned the book and never went back…May be I will now.

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    • Trust me, you’re not missing out on anything with Atlas Shrugged at any age. :) On the other hand, for Mr. B’s cousin’s 8th birthday, I gave her A Wrinkle in Time. She’s not old enough to get it yet, but I figure she’ll see it lying around some day and pick it up and have her mind blown. I can’t wait.

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  5. Lord. There’s something singularly American about this kind of censorship. I love it that what really worries them is not exposing their kids to the idea of MASS GENOCIDE but a little adolescent romance.

    UGH! I say. UGH!

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  6. What’s wrong with lite jazz? Any kind of jazz is one of the greatest music ever created.

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  7. Parents censor what they can and what is in their power to censor, since they cannot censor _most_ of the external influences on their kids. It makes them feel like they are doing their job but it makes no difference whatsoever in the big schema of learning about anything as a child. As a child I read everything I could reach on the shelves and even read Dr Spock’s manual and asked questions about my upbringing ;-) The questions were patiently indulged.

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