A Northville, Michigan mom has filed a complaint against her daughter’s school demanding that they replace the 7th grade English class version of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank with the edited edition. Why? Because she says a passage within the book has made her daughter uncomfortable.
The passage in question is a short paragraph in which young Anne, who is hidden away with her family and a few others to escape persecution by the Nazi regime, describes her genitalia as she is becoming more self aware.
“Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris.”
If you don’t recall this particular passage when assigned this book for reading, you were probably given the edited version. But is it really “pornographic” or just graphic?
Anne uses very technical terms and doesn’t even hint at any sexuality. It is all rather clinically descriptive, and although somewhat shocking, answers questions many young ladies in middle school may have about their bodies; questions they might have been too uninformed to even ask.
Other authors have written about body changes experienced by girls from the age of 11 onward such as Judy Blume’s book, Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. In Blume’s young adult novel, the main character of Margaret Simon struggles with growing up without a particular religious affiliation. Along the way towards growing up, she describes how she copes with “buying her first bra, having her first period, coping with belted sanitary napkins (changed to adhesive sanitary pads for recent editions of the book), jealousy towards another girl who has developed a womanly figure earlier than other girls, liking boys, and more.
Middle school is an iffy time for young girls. Some are more physically developed than others which makes introducing the topics of female physical changes tricky.
The Northville school district is looking into the matter. Perhaps a simple informative note home to parents when assigning this book out letting parents know there may be some mature subject matter. It could become an excellent opportunity for parents to discuss puberty with their kids before they hear all the wrong information elsewhere.
As for Diary of Young Girl; Anne Frank was not fortunate enough to have the time to experience all the changes that come with becoming a young lady in a normal environment. She didn’t get to enjoy much of anything at all which might be a better “jumping off point” for that conversation. Parents could then focus on respect for all life rather than object to a part of it that is essential to growing up.
M. Gwynn has authored two books, Harvest and The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer on Amazon.com .
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