After complaints from parents about excerpts that address sexuality, Colégio Móbile, in São Paulo, released an alternative edition of “Anne Frank’s Diary” for those who felt embarrassed by the previous version, in comics.
The book that generated the discord was “Anne Frank: The Graphic Adaptation” (Anne Frank: The Graphic Adaptation). After the reviews, the work “The Diary of a Young Girl” (the diary of a young girl) was reintroduced in the bibliography, only in written text, which was worked on by the school until the end of 2020.
The oral reading of the book is part of the Memory Seeds (Memory Seeds) project, developed in English classes in the seventh grade, which aims to talk about the Holocaust. The work used is authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation.
The daily was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
The comic book edition contains the complete version of the work, authorized by the girl’s father, Otto Frank. The main points explored are the girl’s experience in the midst of World War II and the persecution of Jews, but Anne, who died in 1945 in a concentration camp in Germany, also talks about her puberty.
The letter sent to the school highlights the excerpts from the book that caused discomfort in parents, stating that there are “erotic aspects” in the narrative. Anne Frank reports such as “every time I see a female nude, I go into ecstasy” and “this hole is so small I can hardly imagine how a man gets in here. […] it’s hard enough to stick my index finger inside.”
The letter also shows the position of those responsible who, without being identified, express their opinion about the use of the work and report conversations they had with their children.
“The school has no right to throw this reading in their laps and parents’ backs. Each family decides how and when to approach sexuality with their children”, declares one of them. “My daughter who read about penises and vaginas. Said he laughed. Certainly because she was embarrassed. The friends laugh, the children are annoyed”, says another.
The signatories ask that the school go back to using the previous version of the book, in addition to requesting a meeting with the school board. “We emphasize the importance of a family education that values respect and freedom of expression above all, regardless of gender, race, religion, social class and political position”, says another passage.
The case gained dimension after a post by DJ Pietra Bertolazzi on her Instagram profile, in which she shares her parents’ dissatisfaction and reproduces excerpts from the book.
“All these pornographic phrases that I shamelessly uttered now refer to the lines of Anne Frank in this work that not only defies, insults and affronts the entire Jewish community,” he said.
The Israeli Federation of São Paulo, however, came out in defense of Móbile in a note sent to the school. “Such positioning [de sexualizar a figura de Anne Frank] it is wrong because it does not consider all the material that has been presented to the students”, he says. “At no time do we see evidence of anti-Semitism in the material.”
Maria (fictitious name), 47, is the mother of one of the 7th grade students at Colégio Móbile. She was not a signatory of the letter because she understood that the content was being worked on responsibly at the school, but says she understands the dissatisfaction on the part of the parents.
“I think that this happened because children do not have the same level of maturity and this issue of sex generates a lot of fear in people”, he said. “Maybe the school’s conduct was wrong when asking students to read aloud, but children have access to the internet and know much more than we imagined.”
She says that, according to her daughter, the teacher warned the students that some passages in the book could cause discomfort, but that none of the students were required to participate in the reading if they felt uncomfortable.
The lawyer and psychoanalyst Raquel Costa, 44, signed a letter in support of the school because she believed that the dissatisfactions presented were disconnected from the reality represented in the book. She is the mother of a full-time 7th grade student whose pedagogical project does not include the comic book version.
On the other hand, Raquel also claims to understand the dissatisfaction on the part of her parents.
“I understand that some families have felt embarrassed, because if I don’t talk openly about it, he can feel embarrassed. What I don’t understand is why people, instead of solving directly with the school, resorted to social networks”, he says.
In the first communication with the parents, the school’s elementary school board stated that the choice of the comic book was made to expand the linguistic challenge to the students. He also said that the book is suitable for 7th grade students and faithful to the original text.
“It is noteworthy that, in the most different versions of the ‘Diary’, the reflections that the protagonist makes about her passions, her puberty and sexuality are well known, in addition, of course, to family conflicts arising from confinement and fears of war.”
In a second statement, the director-general and founder of the school, Maria Helena Bresser, declares that the excerpts referring to Anne’s puberty correspond to less than 7% of the book, in addition to not eroticizing the story. “The excerpts transformed into a graphic script do not eroticize, vulgarize or diminish such a serious, sensitive and important story for all of humanity”, he says.
In a statement, the school says that “if Móbile students are interested in reading the diary in the traditional way, with text only, the content can be accessed through the virtual library”.
“Móbile emphasizes that the entire textual content of the comic book edition is precisely in this original diary written by Anne Frank, including the excerpts that gave rise to this discussion.”
The writer and master in sex education Caroline Arcanjo says that working the content of the book for children aged 11 and 12 is not a problem, as the nudity presented is not eroticized, but brings the humanized portrait of a girl who is in the process of discovery of the body itself.
The method used by the school, however, must be evaluated, he says. If she was working on this with her students, the writer explains that she would read the text herself if the topic was not regularly explored.
“If the school doesn’t work on issues of sexuality, it doesn’t have this bond with the children and this is not a common topic, of course it will cause embarrassment. And if that happened, it won’t cause a disorder or harm the children’s development, but it shows how important it is to bring the family into this sexual education discussion.”
Arcanjo also says that giving the option of another version of the book because parents or students felt constrained with excerpts from the previous work is not the best solution. “This ends up legitimizing the taboo,” he says. “It didn’t censor the work itself, but it gave an alternative to such a human work that was celebrated all over the world.”