The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of Nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that the there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.
A. Frank, 1944
The Unborn by Anselm Keifer, 2001.
Some of us got to discuss this work (which is huge, metal, and looks like a family tree made of bone and tiny sewn clothes) at our monthly art tour. It provided a powerful connection to Frank's diary and asked the horrific question, "What do we lose when we persecute? Who is unborn because of hatred, xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny...
One of the things we have missed the most in our relocation from Florida to Connecticut is our book club (and writers' workshop). After searching for one, we decided to create our own. A few weeks ago, we had our first meeting. Nine t(w)eens and I met in a coffee shop and discussed Anne Frank's diary.
We talked about our initial reactions to the book, what we liked, what confused us, what was surprising and what frustrated us. We wondered what Anne's reaction would have been to the publication of her diary. We tracked her maturation over the years she was hidden. We marveled at the descriptions of food and birthday gifts. And we (I, especially) thought about her deeply problematic relationship with her mother.
The most compelling part of our discussion was when we put ourselves in the shoes of the people who helped hide the families. I expected everyone to step and proclaim that they too would have been a hero and against all odds, would have sheltered refugees. But, truthfully, we all wondered if we really would. Would we put our own families safety at risk? Would we help in other ways? Would we even fully understand what was going on around us? How brave would we be? I wonder if that level of honesty has to do with our current political environment? We are living in a riotous time of socio-political upset. A time of heightened nationalism, the closing of borders and rampant scapegoating and hateful rhetoric. Many had personal connections, involvement, and opinions of the themes of the book.
I appreciated discussing the book and its issues with such smart, well read and individually minded teens. Next month, 1984 by George Orwell. I am looking forward to expanding my mind with this group!
Do you have a book club for kids or teens? Leave a comment or drop me a line - I would love to pick your brain and share resources.