I am sorry Anne Frank. I don’t know you. I’ve never taken the time. In seventh grade I wasn’t in the English class that read your diary, but my friend Alyssa told me about it. She said you hid in an attic until you were caught at the end. I wouldn’t know what “getting caught” meant until eighth grade when my entire social studies class huddled in the corner of the room against the lockers until we were all pushed up and into each other and my teacher said that this was what the trains were like.
I got a better synopsis of your diary from my mother, an English teacher. In college I saw a version of the play. I heard a speech afterwards from an Anne Frank scholar, and used that speech to comment on the topic of your diary in a class. I began to forget I had never read your diary, that I didn’t know you.
I thought about you when I had to write an essay on adaptations of literature and was frustrated when I realized I could not include your diary.
My roommate said, “But you have read Anne Frank.”
“No, I never did. Not really.”
“Well you know it. You saw the play?”
“Then you did read it. You’re good—that counts.”
I began to forget I had never read your diary, that I didn’t know you.
I’m afraid that the definition of reading is changing. That “knowing” is being confused with “thinking” and “reading” is any act completed after which we “know.” In the summer I decided to read cover to cover the books of my favorite stories I thought I knew. I found out some things.
Frankenstein is not the monster.
The Phantom at the opera was not burned on the side of his face by acid or a fire.
Quasimodo doesn’t save Esmeralda in time.
I confused the books with their fairytales. I took what I knew from cartoons, films, and word of mouth more seriously than the actual text and the authors who created them.
I make fun of my father all the time because he can’t tell any fairytale correctly. According to him, Jack climbs the beanstalk to look for a pot of gold and a sleeve of crackers. Goldilocks breaks all the chairs, sleeps in all the beds, and is eaten at the end. He must have missed out on childhood, I think. But I’m not any better because I know the details, that the Giant says, “I smell the blood of an Englishman,” after the “fee-fi-fo-fum.” I’ve missed out on beginning my adulthood, where the fairytales I’ve loved lead me to question their origins. It’s time to take the next step and read the originals.
So I am sorry, Anne Frank, because I have still not read your diary. I will though, and until I do, I won’t pretend that I have.