A school district in Florida has removed the graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank's diary after a conservative parent group complained that it contained inappropriate content.
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation was removed by a principal in the Indian River County School District after a challenge from conservative group Moms For Liberty, who claimed certain parts of the book were "not age appropriate." Jennifer Pippin, chair of the county's MFL chapter, went so far as to say that it strays from Holocaust education.
“Even [the original diary] featured the editing out of the entries about sex,” she said, via NBC. “Even the publisher of the book calls it a ‘biography,’ meaning, it writes its own interpretive spin. It’s not the actual work. It quotes the work, but it’s not the diary in full. It chooses to offer a different view on the subject.”
Students across the United States have read Frank's diary for decades to learn from a first-hand account about the horrors experienced by Jewish people during Nazi Germany. Created by Israeli illustrator David Polonsky, the graphic novel adaptation has been praised for its accuracy and faithfulness to Frank's story, directly pulling quotes and events from the original text.
The scenes MFL cited as "not age appropriate" feature Frank becoming enchanted by statues of nude women, and later suggesting to a female friend that they show each other their breasts. Frank was notably thirteen years old when she began keeping her diary — younger than when most students begin high school.
The scenes are also directly pulled from Frank's diary, with one passage reading: “I remember that once when I slept with a girl friend I had a strong desire to kiss her, and that I did do so. I could not help being terribly inquisitive over her body, for she had always kept it hidden from me. I asked her whether, as a proof of our friendship, we should feel one another’s breasts, but she refused.”
Frank's speculated attraction to women, showcased in the passages, was not directly cited as a reason for the book's removal, but the state's "Don't Say Gay" law prohibits the instruction of LGBTQ+ identities in public schools, with instructors under the threat of felony charges and having their teaching licenses revoked.
Though the book only featured images of drawn nude statues, other Florida educators have faced consequences for showcasing historic artwork. A principal in the state recently lost her job after a lesson on Michelangelo's David was the subject of a parental complaint calling it "pornographic."
The recent decision to ban the graphic novel has been widely condemned by scholars and activists, who now worry that Frank's diary and other Holocaust narratives could be subject to the same complaints and removal, as Moms For Liberty previously called for books on civil rights activists like Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King Jr. to be banned. Pippin said that her chapter in Indian River County seeks to remove an additional 250 books from public schools.
Though it frames itself as a grassroots organization, MFL receives funding from Republican and anti-LGBTQ+ groups, such as The Heritage Foundation. Journalistic nonprofit watchdog Media Matters wrote that MFL is made up of "well-connected partisans opportunistically manufacturing outrage and selling it to parents under the guise of empowerment."
According to Pen America director Jonathan Friedman, most of the book bans across the country have been spearheaded by just around fifty conservative organizations, similar in nature to MFL, who strategically harass school boards in the name of so-called "parental rights." Friedman previously told The Advocate Channel that the ongoing book bans, particularly in Florida, are "extremely alarming" for free speech and education.
"We should be able to say in schools that you can’t just complain about a book and make that turn into a removal or restriction on that book," Friedman said. "And fundamentally, people should be reading the books, talking about them, understanding the purpose of a library. The library isn’t there to serve any one person’s political or ideological views, it’s meant to be relevant to students."
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