Tag Archives: Support Your Local Library Challenge 2010

The Sunday Salon

It is a nothing-to-do, nowhere to be type of Sunday that comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual Saturday, making it completely justifiable to still be pajama-clad on the couch at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I’m catching up on blogs, The Husband is watching our Eagles, and the crockpot is cooking this week’s Sunday soup (Slow Cooked Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil), Hopefully I’ll have a chance to read some of what will be my 60th book of the year (Come to Me, Stories by Amy Bloom).

Yes, indeed … Come to Me marks a record number of books for me.  We’re at that time of the year when we start to see our reading year start to crystallize in terms of records set and challenges met, which is always kind of fun.  I’ve finished five of my Reading Challenges so far (Women Unbound, Support Your Local Library, All Things Alcott, Essay Reading, and my own Memorable Memoir Challenge).  Considering I signed up for a ridiculous number of challenges this year, I’m pretty pleased.

This has been another great reading week.  Earlier this week I finished Jane Mendelsohn’s American Music, which I’m now recommending to EVERYONE.  I absolutely loved this. I’m not sure if it actually is a book that will appeal to everyone, but that doesn’t matter … I just think more people should read and experience the wonder that is this one. 

I also started and finished Heather O’Neill’s debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, one that I hadn’t heard of until I was browsing in the library stacks.  This is a Harper Perennial book, and while not quite as strong as some of the other HP novels I’ve read, this is very good.  It’s about a 12 year old girl named Baby (her real name) who is neglected by her 25 year old father Jules (yeah, do the math) and falls victim – despite her resistance – to the lure of street life.  Very sobering and kind of gritty. 

My audiobook is still Judith Warner’s incredibly well-researched We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication. It’s hard to say that I like this – because it isn’t the sort of book you enjoy – but I think that Ms. Warner is doing a tremendous job presenting the facts and stories of real children and parents in connection with what is such a controversial and hot-button issue for so many. 
I’ve read several of Amy Bloom’s short stories before in various anthologies, but never any of her actual books.  That’s being remedied by my being three stories into Come to Me.  “Sleepwalking” is my favorite so far.  It’s the sort of story where you can see so clearly what is going to happen, yet you’re surprised when it actually does. 
Now I’m off to catch up on some blogs and see what you’re up to today ….  

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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BBAW: Meet Kate from I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read!

So you think you’re a little busy this week with work, life, and this Book Blogger Appreciation Week craziness fun on top of everything else?  Now imagine getting married in the middle of all this.

On Saturday.

That’s the story with book blogger Kate from I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read!.  I was in no condition to speak coherently to anyone in the few days before my wedding so I’m especially impressed that Kate found time to be my BBAW interview partner on top of everything else she has going on this week.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Kate.

I just wanna sit here and read

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I love hearing how people met their partners … how did the two of you meet?

Kate: We met in college. We were on the same dorm floor freshman year. We started off as friends and dated since then, six years strong!

My husband and I met in college and were friends before dating, too.  I understand your fiance had a part in the name of your blog. Tell us about that.

Kate: My guy was constantly bugging me about reading and asking me why I read all the time and I really did not have an answer, I just loved to. There was a Modern Family episode where Phil stayed home on the first day of school and his wife sat down to read a book (she’s a stay at home Mom). Phil kept bugging her and she said something to the effect of, “I just want to sit here and read.” And my guy and I started cracking up because that was so us! So for about a week I kept saying it when he bugged me and then when it came time to start a blog I already had my name.

You have one of the most eye-catching headers that I’ve seen.  Did you design it yourself?

Kate: I wish I was that talented! I had it designed for me by Twispired Blog Design.  I highly recommend her!

And you’ve only been blogging since January of this year, right? What prompted you to start a book blog?

Kate: I started off as a staff member with the Open Book Society doing reviews, book clubs, and news. I had so much fun I wanted to try one for myself.

Were there any bloggers who were particularly helpful to you or who you looked to for inspiration?

Kate: The Story Siren really helped with her blog tips for new bloggers, and going to BEA definitely gave me a crash course in how to market my blog. Pam from Bookalicio.us was my mentor through a book blogger program and she helped me set up my blog and answered a lot of my beginner questions.

I agree, Kristi’s blog is a great resource for new bloggers.  And I’ve been reading Bookalicio.us for awhile now and met Pam at the Book Blogger Convention when we sat together for breakfast.  Were you at the Book Blogger Convention, by any chance?

Kate: Yes. I’m planning to attend next May too. We should meet up this year if you decide to go!

Absolutely!  No deciding needed on my end … believe me, I’m already counting the days.  Speaking of book events, I really enjoyed your post about the Mockingjay book launch party at Books of Wonder in New York.  Have you been to other book events? Which ones were particularly memorable?

Kate: Besides BEA signings (which is madness and amazing at the same time) I have not been to many book events. BEA was like speed dating for fans and authors. You stood in line and once you said hi and got the book signed you could jump into another line if there was time. I definitely had a blast!

I’m going to try and get to at least one day of BEA next year, I think.  Since you mentioned meeting authors, if you were able to invite five authors (living or dead) to your house for a dinner party, which ones would receive an invitation?

Kate: Jane Austen, Kelley Armstrong, James Patterson, Stephen King, and Sophie Kinsella.

And the menu?

Probably Chinese takeout, because then I could definitely die and go to heaven happy.

Of those dinner party authors, I’m not familiar with Kelley Armstrong.

She writes the Otherworld series, among others.  I haven’t read too many vampire tales, I am just coming into it now myself.  Another YA vampire series that I’ve particularly enjoyed is the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz. It’s a new “take” on vampires and follows vamps living the high life in Manhattan.

(Melissa mumbles under breath:  I think I know a few folks who fit that category. Ahem…as I was saying …)  

We have a few challenges in common: Support Your Library and the YA Challenge.  Of the challenges you’ve completed (and congrats on that, too!) is there one that you particularly enjoyed?

Kate: I liked the 100+ Book Challenge because that really pushed my reading up to a whole other level and also the Book Recommendation Challenge because I read some books I probably would have passed on if I didn’t decide to do it.

How many book blogs are in your Google Reader (or whichever reader you use)?

Kate: I had to narrow it down earlier this year because it got a bit ridiculous each day, so I think I have around 50 right now that I check on each day.

Is there anything else you would like bloggers to know about you?

Kate: I would like to send my appreciation to all those who follow me and those who I have met so far on this journey. And I hope to gain more followers in the future to share my love of books with. Thanks!! 🙂  

Thank you, Kate!  I’m betting you’ll have more followers (and more blogs to read than 50) as a result of BBAW. Thanks again for being my interview partner this week,  and all the best to you and your husband as you start this next chapter of your life!

Stop by Kate’s blog at I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read! to read her interview with me as well as to learn more about her favorite YA, adult paranormal/romance, chick-lit, and general fiction books.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!

The Sunday Salon: A Menagerie of Books This Week

It’s a gorgeous Sunday here, and Betty and I will soon be visiting the zoo (my 8 year old veterinarian-in-training wants to check on her favorite Siberian tiger), followed by stops at the library and the supermarket.  These were our plans for yesterday, but what I suspect is a burst eardrum of Boo’s (and the resulting pain) kept us close to home.

Which was fine (being close to home, not the burst eardrum) because that allowed me to finally finish and write a review of David Plouffe’s The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic VictoryIt’s a very thorough account of the Obama for America campaign, and I liked this one a lot. The irony wasn’t – and still isn’t – lost on me that I finished this on the eve of another new chapter in the Obama legacy. As the historic healthcare reform vote looms this afternoon, it has the potential to be the defining issue of a historic presidency that Plouffe and so many people sacrificed so much to achieve.   I read this for my Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge (one more to go!) and for Support Your Own Library.
My last four books have been nonfiction, so I’m really craving a good novel right now. That’s somewhat complicated by the fact that several books I want to get to are due back to the library soon, so I don’t have the luxury of indulging in even a semi-chunkster – hence, I’m reading a few shorter, quick books at a time. 
I started Exactly as I Am: Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today’s Girls on What It Takes to Believe In Yourself at my desk over lunch. It seems to be a quick read and a good book to keep in one’s purse (or Kindle). I’m reading this one for the 2010 YA Challenge and the Support Your Local Library Challenge.
I had ulterior motives for starting Madeleine Albright’s Read My Pins last night as the kids and I were reading together before bedtime. Always one drawn to baubles, bangles, and beads, I thought Betty would be entranced by the glitter of the pins on each page. I was right, as Madeleine Albright’s pins are absolutely gorgeous. More important, though, is that I thought it would be a subtle way of introducing her to our former Secretary of State as an example of an accomplished woman … as opposed to some, uh … other notables I can think of.  I’m reading this one for Women Unbound and the Support Your Local Library Challenge.
And then there are these two, which I haven’t even opened yet, but which I am hoping to get to this week.
Oh, wait …. I almost forgot my audiobook!  I just started The Book Thief  (narrated by Allan Corduner) last week and am loving this.  It’s kind of a Catch-22, though.  The writing is so good that I often think I should be reading this instead.  But then I think, isn’t that one of the qualities of good writing, that it can work just as well spoken as written?  Regardless, The Book Thief was among my want-to-make-sure-and-try-to-read-this books for this year and now I understand what y’all have been raving about! My commute is going to be a few days less than usual this week, so it’s possible I might have to resort to the printed word to keep up. 

OK, now we’re off to see what awaits us at the zoo and the library. Make it a great Sunday everybody!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.
Thanks for sharing this post!

Book Review: The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory, by David Plouffe

The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory
by David Plouffe. Campaign Manager, Obama for America
390 pages

We know how this story ends. 

It is the beginning and the middle chapters, some of which we know and some of which we’re just learning, that David Plouffe shares with us in his recounting of the Obama campaign, The Audacity to Win. 

“When we entered the race, we talked a lot about trying to run a different kind of campaign. The odds of our electing a president were against us: our only hope of success depended on breaking free of the standard political paradigm and becoming a movement. … Above all, it meant a change in tone. We wanted to avoid engaging in the snarky tit-for-tat that had consumed our politics for years, and to put the grassroots – the people – before interest groups and endorsement politics. We wanted to reach voters individually rather than expect some group or person to deliver them.

“Our dogged refusal to be led around by the nose by insiders and interest groups was driven by a few factors: We had no margin for error; We knew we wouldn’t run the perfect campaign, and we didn’t, but we could not be cavalier in making decisions on resource allocation – whether time, money, or message. We had none of them to waste.” (pg. 68-69)

The Obama campaign strategy, as conceived and executed by “the Davids” (Plouffe and Axelrod) and their team, was many things.  It was a break from the conventional ways of campaigning, from the focus on grassroots organizing to the embrace of online fundraising.

What David Plouffe shows his reader is that while there were many successes (and rightfully so), there were mistakes and missteps. He is forthcoming about many of these, about Obama’s (“I don’t want this to happen again” stern reprimands when they did) and shoulders the blame often. Plouffe reminds us of the facets of this campaign that one either forgets just 18 months after the election or that we didn’t know about. For instance, I never knew how indecisive Obama was about running for President (even after he had decided to do so – a hesitancy shared by Plouffe as he contemplated becoming his Campaign Manager.)

“I called Obama in Hawaii to tell him. ‘Against my better judgement,” I said, “I’ve decided to accept and manage this nutty enterprise. All-in. I’m yours until we win or lose.’
‘I am very grateful,’ he responded. ‘I’ll do my best to make sure you don’t regret it.'” (pg. 26)
In looking back on the Obama campaign with The Audacity to Win, it would have been easy for Plouffe to simply remind us of the good stuff, the feel-good moments of the campaign. He does this, absolutely, but his is a surprisingly more critically candid view of the campaign than I originally anticipated, especially knowing that Obama supported the writing of the book.

As just one example, Plouffe is honest about the campaign’s failings to fully research Jeremiah Wright. There were issues with the man beginning literally from Day 1 when Obama announced his candidacy. Plouffe fully owns that these issues should have prompted a thorough internal review in order to stave off the crisis that erupted in April 2009 – which would, ironically, prompt one of the campaign’s best moments, the speech on race at the National Constitution Center (a truly incredible place to spend some time, by the way) in Philadelphia.

There’s a lot of talk about political strategy in The Audacity to Win (the reader is along for the ride through every single state – in Audacity, nearly every state gets a full analysis, from delegates to ad strategy) and enough inside baseball stories of the Obama campaign to satisfy the most fervent political junkie. The reader almost feels part of the staff, privvy to conference calls and campaign emails. (Maybe that’s somewhat intentional, given the campaign’s strategy of reaching out to donors directly.)

The Audacity to Win takes a much more complimentary view (understandably so) of the Clinton campaign than Anne Kornblut’s book, Notes from the Cracked Ceiling, while Plouffe’s view of the McCain campaign (particularly in regards to the Sarah Palin pick) is one of eyebrow-raised puzzlement and perplexity. Palin was barely on the Obama campaign’s radar, and where he could have had opportunity in his book to take different shots, Plouffe doesn’t, preferring to stick to discussions of the strategic nature.

Plouffe illuminates the more humorous moments of the campaign – the fact that the campaign bus was always tuned to ESPN instead of the pundits on the cable news channels and how many of the late-night conference calls were conducted by Plouffe from the bathroom of the small Chicago apartment that he shared with his wife and son.

Plouffe is at his best in The Audacity to Win when he marries the personal and the political. Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet can empathize with Plouffe’s heartbreak and helplessness when his wife calls from across the country with news of their dog’s decline and death. With this simple anecdote – and others, like a Cat’s in the Cradle type of moment with his young son, and the announcement that he and his wife were expecting their second child on November 2, 2009 – he poignantly illustrates the demands that campaigns require of their staff and the dichotomy of not being there for many of life’s significant moments.

At times, Plouffe also connects his early pre-Internet political experiences as a staffer on Tom Harkins’ 1990 campaign with those of the ingenues he supervises on the Obama campaign. On the eve of the release of the influential Des Moines Register poll in December 2007, Plouffe writes of days gone by when he was charged with going to the Register building at midnight to persuade a deliveryman for a copy of the paper to learn Harkins’ poll results.

“Since then I have never seen a Register poll without thinking of that night and of how seemingly insignificant moments like that can have an outsized impact on your professional trajectory.” [Oh, how very true, David!]  “Now I got to play the old hand: I told our mostly under thirty staff about how we used to get the Register poll down at the docks because there was no Internet, and they would roll their eyes and look at me like I had escaped from the set of Cocoon.” (pg. 116)

(As a peer of yours age-wise, David, I know that look so very well.) 

The Audacity to Win is a book with great appeal to political junkies like me, but also for people interested in organizational communication, the culture of the workplace, and management.  Plouffe writes of the “no drama” rule of the Obama campaign and how establishing basic rules from the get-go allowed them to build an organization – and an organizational culture – worthy of a model for many other businesses.

I finished this book this morning, spending a few hours reading the final 100 or so pages.  Doing so on the eve of this momentous vote on health care reform lends itself to a bit of irony.  Regardless of what position you have on healthcare reform, and however tomorrow’s vote comes out, this issue (and this historic vote) will come to define the Obama presidency.

A presidency that so many worked so hard for and sacrificed so much to achieve. 

What Other Bloggers Thought:
Books ‘N Border Collies

FTC disclaimer: Borrowed from the library.  Will need to take out second mortgage to pay the overdue fees.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!

Book Review (Audio): The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini


“A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer.” (pg. 301)

No matter how much we try to ignore, bury, or forget our past, it is always with us – as well as the burden of guilt that often accompanies the actions we’d prefer to forget, until we can forgive ourselves. Such is the premise of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s powerful bestselling first novel.

The Kite Runner is a heartwrenching story about friendship and family, about loyalty and guilt. It is the story of two boys, Amir and Hassan, growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a wealthy man and lives a comfortable life; Hassan and his father work as servants in Amir’s home. Amir’s mother died during childbirth; Hassan never knew his mother, as she left him and his father when he was very young.

All they have is each other, and what seems to be – until one fateful, life-changing day – an idyllic childhood, even in Afghanistan.

Initially, I wasn’t as captivated by The Kite Runner as I was with A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I also listened to via audio. Several times I found myself thinking, “this is what all the hype was about?” Make no mistake: Khaled Hosseini is a truly talented writer, and this is a powerful story – but unlike Suns, the first half of The Kite Runner didn’t have me in its grip from the get-go.

That changed in the latter portion of the book. There comes a point in the story (and those who have read it know when that is) when the action steps up pace considerably, and you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what happens. Hosseini gives his reader a believable story, and it is one that in lesser skilled hands could fall prone to the tendency to be tied up neatly and perfectly.

That’s not this story, and it is even more stronger for it. For if the ending was different would have been a disservice to the character of Amir and minimized his struggles.

It’s hard to say much more about The Kite Runner without giving any spoilers away. Despite my initial misgivings, in my opinion it has earned the many accolades it has garnered.

One amusing note: I listened to this on audio, but I also have a printed copy (yay, one book from Mt. TBR read!). In the back of my copy, there’s an ad announcing that Khaled Hosseini’s next book about Afghanistan “Driving in Titanic City,” will be published in summer 2006. I never knew that was the original title for A Thousand Splendid Suns (a much better choice, in my opinion).

Challenges: Audiobook
Support Your Local Library Challenge (because it was an audio book)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!

The Sunday Salon: February Roundup

My laptop was acting a bit quirky this morning (that’s never a good thing)  but the silver lining is that I had more time to read than I anticipated. That’s always a good thing, especially so this week because my current read (The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe, Campaign Manager for Obama for America) was due back to the library last Tuesday. I’m only 1/4 finished.

I’m liking it so far – not as riveting as I anticipated (maybe because we know the ending? 🙂 Still, it is a very interesting account of the Obama campaign, which was groundbreaking on so many levels that on the surface, seemed to be nearly flawless. Thus far, Plouffe does a really good job of revealing missteps they made (some of which we know, some of which were hardly reported) without casting blame or aspersions on anyone but himself, as well as giving insights into the misfired strategies of other campaigns (specifically, Hillary Clinton’s) without

Since Audacity is overdue, it’s only fitting that my recap of the books I read in February is also late.  I finished four books last month (same as January).  This brings my total Books Read for 2010 to eight. 

5. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf 
6. Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife – by Francine Prose 
7. Prairie Tale: A Memoir, by Melissa Gilbert
8. Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win, by Anne E. Kornblut

I also read the following children’s books to the kids:

Let There Be Peace on Earth (And Let it Begin with Me) – by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller
Would I Trade My Parents? – by Laura Numeroff
The Duchess of Whimsy: An Absolutely Delicious Fairy Tale – by Randall de Seve and Peter de Seve
(I know there were others, but these are just our library books.)

As for my Challenges, well … that’s proving to be a mixed bag.  I’m doing pretty well with the Support Your Local Library Challenge (16/75) and Women Unbound (3/8). I’m keeping up with my own Memorable Memoir Challenge, with 2/4 read.  The Audiobook Challenge seems to be stuck on Pause this month, as I am still at 1/6 with none added to that.

Sadly, I haven’t even touched the Beth Kephart challenge (so sorry, Beth!), nor Colorful Reading, Debutante Ball, Essay Reading, Shelf Discovery, or YA.  To make matters worse, I only finished 2/4 for Woolf in Winter. I’m thinking that I may need to bow out of Shelf Discovery, as I don’t see that happening for me by the end of April. 

As if that isn’t pathetic enough, I’ve up and joined two additional Challenges – the New York Challenge and Clover, Bee, and Reverie. What the hell was – and am – I thinking?!

(I’d add the links to these but am pressed for time this morning – between the uncertainty of the laptop and needing to get moving to sell Girl Scout cookies with Betty, I shouldn’t even be online right now.)

On that note, I return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday Saloning.  Happy reading, everyone!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!

Book Review: Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife, by Francine Prose

Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife

by Francine Prose

published 2009

281 pages

Read for: Women Unbound; Support Your Local Library; Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge

“In Amsterdam, on the sunny and otherwise quiet morning of Friday, August 4, 1944, a car pulled up in front of the Opekta warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht.

That is all one needs to write, and already the reader know who was hiding in the attic and the fate about to befall them. We know it more than sixty years later, at a historical moment when it is often noted how little history we remember. We know the reason why we know, but it bears repeating lest we take it for granted that we know because a little girl kept a diary.” (pg. 63)

I thought I knew the story of Anne Frank’s diary.

Like many teenagers, I read The Diary of a Young Girl in middle school and was immediately captivated and inspired by young Anne’s writing. Through her diary, Anne became, for my generation and others, a symbol of the Holocaust and the atrocities committed upon millions of people during that time.

But in Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife, bestselling author Francine Prose provides an illuminating view of Anne Frank and her diary. There are so many aspects of the diary that Prose discusses with fascinating detail, and in doing so, the reader learns so much about a book – and more importantly, a girl – that we thought we knew.

For starters, it’s not necessary (as I originally thought) to re-read The Diary of a Young Girl before reading Prose’s book. Prose includes so much of the diary’s passages that you instantly remember the phrases, the others hiding in the attic with their idiosyncrasies unveiled, and how Anne seemed to speak to us through her diary, which she names Kitty, a brilliant literary device that endears her to her reader.

“Reading Anne’s diary, we become the friend, the most intelligent, comprehending companion that anyone could hope to find. Chatty, humorous, familiar, Anne is writing to us, speaking from the heart to the ideal confidante, and we rise to the challenge and become that confidante. She turns us into the consummate listener, picking up the signals she hopes she

is transmitting into the fresh air beyond the prison of the attic. If her diary is a message in a bottle, we are the ones who find it, glittering on the beach.” (pg. 91)

Anne Frank: The Book

Prose makes a compelling case for the fact that the diary was, in Anne’s view, a deliberate work of art. I didn’t know (or maybe I had forgotten) that the diary went through several versions and revisions. There was the first version (A), and then in March 1944, Anne began the process of revising her work (version B). After her death, the diary was retrieved and given to Anne’s father, Otto Frank, who began the process of editing his daughter’s work (version C), believing as she did that it should be published – which incidentally, did not happen overnight. Far from it.

“The manuscript was rejected by every editor who read it, none of whom could imagine that readers would buy the intimate diary of a young girl, dead in the war. (pg. 77)

Same in the United States, where “Anne Frank’s diary was initially rejected by nearly every major publishing house. “ It was considered to be “too narrowly focused, too domestic, too Jewish, too boring, and above all, too likely to remind readers of what they wished to

forget.” (pg. 81) Others were more harsh, calling it “‘very dull,’ a ‘dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.'” (pg. 81)

An editor found it in the reject pile.

But that’s all history, obviously. There’s still the matter of the writing itself. In Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife, Prose presents side-by-side comparisons of Anne’s original passages and the same words following Anne’s self-editing and revisions. In the process, Anne’s writing strengthens and matures. At 15, she becomes a master of all aspects of writing – the ability to develop characters and detail, create suspense (even though you know what is going to happen), voice and tone, and multiple themes.

“One striking aspect of the diary is how much life it packs into its pages. Sex is part of it, as is death, love, family, age, youth, hope, God, the spiritual and the domestic, the mystery of innocence and the mystery of evil.” (pg. 126)

As a writer, it is both fascinating to watch this literary process unfold … and heartbreaking because you can’t help but wonder what could have been.

Anne Frank: The Life

Through her writing, Anne also gives a reader a strong sense of the history and happenings of that time, which is incredible given the fact the Franks were in hiding. Prose writes that this becomes even more critical as decades pass and memories fade.

“In a few more years, no one alive will have witnessed the scene of a Nazi arresting a Jew. There have been, and will be, other arrests and executions for the crime of having been born into a particular race or religion or tribe. But the scene of Nazis hunting down Jews is unlikely to happen again, though history teaches us never to say never. This will be the arrest that future generations can visualize, like a scene in a book. They will have to remind themselves that it happened to real people, though these people have survived, and will live on, as characters in a book.” (pg. 64)

There is a section of Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife where Prose writes about the arrest of the Franks, details of which I again thought I knew but didn’t. The arresting officer Karl Josef Silberbauer

“was disturbed by the detail of Otto Frank’s military trunk, labeled as the property of Lieutenant Otto Frank, which meant he would have been Sergeant Silberbauer’s superior when both fought in the German army during World War I.” (pg. 65)

Simon Wiesenthal later successfully tracked down this Silberbauer, whose wartime activities were investigated and later dropped for “lack of evidence.” (Is it possible to arrest someone for being an asshole? Because if so, Silberbauer would have been pretty high on my list for his whining. See if you agree.)

“The suddenly notorious [after his whereabouts and wartime history became known] Silberbauer complained to a Dutch reporter that his temporary suspension from the [Vienna] police force [after his whereabouts and wartime history became known] was making it hard to pay for the new furniture he’d bought on the installment plan, and that he could no longer use the pass that let him ride the streetcar for free. Asked if he had read Anne Frank’s

diary, Silberbauer replied that he had bought it to see if he was in it.” (pg. 66)

I commend Prose for taking a more restrained response to this than I would have, because really … worrying about his furniture payments and losing his privileges of riding the streetcar for free? Call me callous, but those hardships don’t seem to be on par with dying of typhus at age 15 in a concentration camp.

“Why did he think he might be? He knew what happened to Anne after he flushed her out of the attic. Did he imagine that, ill and starving, she could have kept up her diary in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, pausing from her labors to record her impressions of Silberbauer?” (pg. 66-67)

All of this would have been sufficient material for Prose to examine in less than 300 pages. But, she gives us more – so much more.

I hadn’t intended to read this for the Women Unbound challenge, but I think it fits. Seeing the emergence of Anne as the feminist she could have been is fascinating.

“Anne is appalled by the thought of growing up with the limited horizons, ambitions, and expectations of the women around her …. Anne writes that she hopes to spend a year in Paris or London, studying languages and art history – an ambition she compares, with barely veiled contempt, to Margot’s desire to go to Palestine and become a midwife.

“In an essay entitled “Reading Anne Frank as a Woman,” a feminist interpretation of Anne as ‘a woman who was censored by male editors,” Berteke Waaldijk, a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Utrecht, points out a long and almost entirely overlooked passage that Otto Frank excised from the final section of the diary. Perhaps Otto assumed that a lengthy disquisition on women’s rights might distract the reader heading into the final pages in which Anne is unknowingly hurtling toward her doom. At a point during which Anne was

simultaneously writng new material and rapidly revising, she devoted a remarkable amount of space to the question of why women are treated as inferior to men:

[Anne’s words]

‘Presumably man, thanks to his greater physical strength, achieved dominence over women from the very start; man, who earns the money, who begets children, who may do what he wants … It is stupid enough of women to have borne it all in silence for such a long time, since the more centuries this arrangement lasts, the more deeply rooted it becomes. Luckily schooling, work and progress have opened women’s eyes. In many countries … modern women demand the right of complete independence!”

It really makes you wonder, doesn’t it, about what kind of woman Anne Frank would have become, seeing the blossoming right before our eyes, the issues that she would have been speaking out on, the differences that she would have made in addition to the ones she did make as a 15 year old.

Anne Frank: The Afterlife

By afterlife, Prose is not referring to reincarnation or a ghostly presence or anything like that. She’s referring to the life that The Diary of a Young Girl has had in the years since Anne’s death and the producton of the play, and the movie. (I never saw either, so the machinations involved surrounding both were not as compelling to me as other parts of Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife. After reading the behind-the-scenes drama and the final result that is the play and movie, I’m not interested in seeing either.)

Prose addresses the claims that some consider the diary to be fake, the emergence of Holocaust deniers, and the reasons why The Diary of a Young Girl ranks among the most-challenged and banned book in schools. (After one such case, one school board was ordered to pay families $50,000 in damages because of their children’s exposure to Anne Frank’s diary.)

All of the above is disturbing at best, horrifying at worst, but Prose counters this with real-life examples of how Anne’s diary is being taught in schools – and why it must be. It goes back to the passage of how in a few years, there won’t be anyone left alive who has witnessed – much less lived – during a time when Nazis hunted down Jews. But it is more than that: in 2008, a survey found that a quarter of American teenagers had no idea who Hitler was.

If you’re a teacher or otherwise responsible for kids’ education, I’d imagine that this section of Prose’s book would be of great interest.

Anne Frank wrote that she believed that people were basically good at heart. She also hoped that there would be a way to live on after her death.

With extensive research and detail showing us an Anne Frank who was a gifted writer and feminist and change agent for the world, Francine Prose has proven to us by paying homage to Anne that both are, absolutely, very much possible.

FTC disclaimer: I owe a small fortune on this, as this was due back January 29 to my local library.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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