Rachel Kadish is the author of the novel From a Sealed Room (Putnam, 1998).
Last spring I taught a course, “Writing About Place,” at Boston College. The students read the sections of Anne’s diary where she describes the physical setup of her home. I had them read an essay by Caryl Phillips, a British West Indian writer, about how visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam awakened his political consciousness as a black man in Europe. They also read a short story by Marianne Wiggins, ex-wife of Salman Rushdie, based on their visit to the Anne Frank House when hiding from the fatwa.
My students, from all over the country, were mostly Catholic; there were no Jews among them. I had to explain to at least half the class who Sahnan Rushdie was, and why he had been on the run. But they all knew who Anne Frank was and with the exception of the student who grew up in Saudi Arabia—they had all read her diary. In fact. Anne Frank was the only author I was able to refer to all semester without needing to give an explanation. I don’t think she ever imagined how famous a writer she would become. That gives me some comfort, it’s one dream of hers that was fulfilled.