Doing Anne Frank
Against the background of the mass-murder of European Jewry,
the book presents a vivid picture of a group of hunted people
forced to live and survive together in almost intolerable proximity . . .
Report from the curriculum wars:
On the literary front, the call to arms is
"How long will you spend on that?"
After years of skirmishing,
our dirty little war has come before the Board,
and things are getting hot.
In the war room, at the big table,
the volleys of words fly.
All the curricular atrocities—
9th graders reading Orwell, the horror of The Odyssey too soon—
have us bobbing and ducking and squawking.
What else are we to do?
Our canon fell to ruin years ago,
and now we have no lists, no lists at all,
. . . Written with humor as well as insight,
it offers an extraordinary picture of a girl growing up
and conveys all the preoccupations of adolescence
and first love.*
so we are mano a mano for the honor of Our Text.
We go nose to nose over Dorian Gray, over Jekyll and Hyde,
over Caesar, over Shelley’s misguided Victor
—"Cyrano is ours!"—
but for deciding when it's done.
Anne Frank's been done,
while LaKeeshia slept on the back row in 9th grade
dreaming of her own poor edition of Cyrano
who did her until her belly swelled, and now
she lays her head on one of my desks because Jontay cried
all last night and would not let her sleep
or dream of first love. Ah,
the preoccupations of adolescence
Follow orders. Move on.
David E. Poston
*from Benet's Readers' Encyclopedia. 2nd ed.