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A Texas teacher was fired for assigning eighth grade students to read from a graphic illustration adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, which the district said was not approved.
The illustrated edition was written in cooperation with the group founded by Frank’s father, Otto.
The book contains references to Frank’s sexuality and description of her genitals, both of which are taken from the published text versions of her diary, in one case word-for-word.
Did a Texas teacher get fired over Anne Frank’s diary?
"Texas teacher fired for reading Diary of Anne Frank to class-THIS Speaks for itself!!!" wrote Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Teachers Federation, in an Aug. 20 post on X.
Weingarten’s post was missing context, though. The Texas teacher was not fired for reading the book titled, "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," the now-famous account that was first published in the U.S. in 1952. The teacher was fired for assigning students to read a 2018 graphic novel adapted from the diary.
Weingarten’s post linked to a news article in the Houston Chronicle that accurately described what happened.
An eighth grade reading teacher in Texas’ Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District was fired Sept. 13 for assigning a passage of "Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation," according to the Chronicle and other news reports.
The graphic illustrated adaptation includes Frank’s writing about her attraction to other girls. It also includes Frank’s clinical descriptions of her genitalia.
"As the Houston Chronicle and many others have reported, the adaptation is faithful to the original text," said Andrew Crook, an American Teachers Federation spokesperson, when asked about Weingarten’s post.
According to news reports, a district spokesperson said the book was not approved by the district. KFDM, a CBS television affiliate in Texas, reported the district called the material "inappropriate" in a letter sent to parents Sept. 12.
A school district spokesperson did not respond to PolitiFact questions.
The illustrated edition, written by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman and illustrated by David Polonsky, and published in 2018, was produced in cooperation with Anne Frank Fonds, the foundation founded by Anne’s father, Otto Frank.
The widely published text version of Frank’s diary most readers know combines her initial diary entries and those she later rewrote during the more than two years she and her family hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic during World War II.
Frank and her family were captured in 1944 before she could finish her work. She died in 1945 at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.
After the war, Otto Frank compiled his daughter’s writings from both diary versions into the edition first published in Dutch as "The Secret Annex" in 1947. The diary was published in English in 1952 as "The Diary of a Young Girl."
Some of the diary entries were omitted in those editions, either for space or content, but a definitive edition published in English in 1995 restored about 30% more material, according to a review of that edition by The New York Times.
The illustrated version of Frank’s diary was adapted from the definitive edition of Frank’s book.
The graphic novel’s pages that have drawn concern from some people in this Texas case include depictions of Frank’s writings about her sexuality.
In the illustrated version, a diary entry dated Jan. 6, 1944, shows Frank writing about puberty and describing a time when she spent the night at a girlfriend’s house. Frank asked whether they could "show each other our breasts," as proof of their friendship, the book says. Her friend declined and, according to the book, Frank wrote, "If only she had known my terrible desire to kiss her."
The next page shows an illustration of Frank walking past a series of nude statues with the words, "I must admit, every time I see a female nude, I go into ecstasy. If only I had a girlfriend!"
These passages are not unique to the graphic novel, however.
Frank’s writings about her sexuality appear in the 1952 English language version that’s been taught in schools for decades, said Ruth Franklin, an author who is working on a book about Frank’s diary.
The illustrated version is a truncated version of the text entry in the 1952 version of Frank’s diary. There, she described a sleepover with her friend before the Franks were in hiding. She was curious about her friend’s body and asked whether they "should feel one another’s breasts" as proof of their friendship. She also wrote, "I go into ecstasies every time I see the naked figure of a woman, such as Venus, for example. It strikes me (sometimes) as so wonderful and exquisite that I have difficulty in stopping the tears rolling down my cheeks." The entry ends with, "If only I had a girl friend!"
The wording is slightly different in the 1995 definitive edition. In it, Frank asked her friend whether they "could touch each other’s breasts’ and wrote, "Every time I see a female nude, such as the Venus in my art history book, I go into ecstasy. Sometimes I find them so exquisite I have to struggle to hold back tears. If only I had a girlfriend!"
In a March 24, 1944, entry in the illustrated version, Frank describes her vagina in clinical terms, imagining how she would describe it to a teenage boy who was also hiding in the attic.
The illustrated adaptation features a large chunk of text taken word-for-word from the entry in the definitive text version of Frank’s diary. This entry was not in the text’s 1952 edition.
In a note at the end of the illustrated edition, Folman wrote that it was tricky to truncate Frank’s original diary and still be faithful to the full work. In a Sept. 21 interview with NBC News, Folman called the Texas teacher’s firing a "red alert of where this society is going," referring to attempts to ban or censor books in schools.
Folman said there was "nothing extreme at all" about the passages about sexuality in the book.
The text version of the definitive edition has faced similar opposition from some parents. In 2013, a Michigan mother petitioned to have the book removed over what she called "pornographic" descriptions of a girl’s anatomy. Her request was denied by the Northville school district.
Maatje Mostart, a spokesperson for the Anne Frank House, provided a statement to PolitiFact that said the teacher was fired for discussing the graphic adaptation of the diary, not the diary itself.
"Graphic biographies or novels are very suitable for reaching young people. Banning books, in this case the graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, because of certain passages is a missed opportunity to introduce young people to Anne Frank’s life story and the history of the Holocaust," the statement said.
Weingarten claimed that a Texas teacher was "fired for reading Diary of Anne Frank to class."
The teacher was fired for assigning students to read a graphic illustrated adaptation of the definitive text edition of Frank’s diary. So, it didn’t quite happen as Weingarten framed it, though she linked to an accurate news article.
The school district told parents some content of the illustrated edition was inappropriate. However, the adaptation hews close to the text of Frank’s diary.
The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate this claim Half True.
Andrew Crook, a spokesperson for the American Teachers Federation, email exchange, Sept. 21, 2023
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, adapted by Ari Folmon and David Polonsky, 2018
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, the definitive edition
Ruth Franklin, Ghost Stories, Substack, Was Anne Frank bisexual?, Aug. 28, 2022
Ruth Franklin, X post, Sept. 19, 2023
Ruth Franklin, email and phone interviews, Sept. 21 and 22
Bisexual books, Tumblr post, accessed Sept. 22, 2023
Ruth Franklin, The New York Times, Anne Frank’s Diary, in Graphic Form, Reveals Its Humor, Jan. 9, 2019
The Jerusalem Post, 'Anne Frank pornography' being banned in Florida, Texas schools, June 13, 2023
Jewish Journal, Anne Frank’s diary is now a comic book, Sept. 7, 2017
The Christian Science Monitor, Is the unabridged 'Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl' too much of a good thing?, May 8, 2013
The Christian Science Monitor, Michigan school: 'Anne Frank' will stay, May 13, 2013
The Washington Post, Texas teacher fired after assigning graphic novel based on Anne Frank’s diary, Sept. 20, 2023
The Washington Post, Anne Frank adaptation, 40 more books pulled from Texas school district, Aug. 18, 2022
The Texan, Bible, Anne Frank Graphic Novel Back on Keller ISD Shelves After Allegations of Being Banned, Aug. 22, 2022
Houston Chronicle, Texas teacher fired after assigning an illustrated Anne Frank book, Sept. 19, 2023
Houston Public Media, Texas teacher fired for reading from an Anne Frank graphic novel, Sept. 21, 2023
NBC News, Texas teacher removed after using Anne Frank graphic novel with sexual content, Sept. 20, 2023
USA Today, Texas teacher fired over Anne Frank graphic novel. The complaint? Sexual content, Sept. 20, 2023
The Associated Press, Illustrated Anne Frank book removed by Florida school, April 10, 2023
Anne Frank Fonds, Successful Graphic Diary based on the Diary of Anne Frank, Aug. 1, 2018
Anne Frank House, The publication of the diary, accessed Sept. 21, 2023
Anne Frank House,The two versions of Anne’s diary, accessed Sept. 21, 2023
Anne Frank House, Who was Anne Frank?, accessed Sept. 21, 2023
Anne Frank House, Anne, from Diarist to Icon, accessed Sept. 21, 2023
Maatje Mostart, spokesperson for the Anne Frank House, email exchange, Sept. 21, 2023
The New York Times, The Whole Anne Frank, March 5, 1995
The Times of Israel, For Anne Frank’s 90th birthday, ‘dueling’ versions of her diary published, June 11, 2019
LGBTQ Nation, School bans comic book of "Diary of Anne Frank" over "sexually explicit" cartoon statues, April 6, 2023
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