For the last two weeks, we’ve been featuring the winning letters from the Letters About Literature initiative, a national reading and writing program that asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. Winners were announced last month. National and honor winners were chosen from three competition levels: Level 1 (grades 4-6), Level 2 (grades 7-8) and Level 3 (grades 9-12). You can read the letters from the Level 1 winners here and here.
Following is the Level 2 National Prize winning letter from Jisoo Choi of Ellicott City, Md., who wrote to Anne Frank, author of “The Diary of a Young Girl.”
I hold your diary in my hands, and I feel as if you are speaking to me from years past. You are telling me how much it annoys you that the van Daans are always quarreling. You’re whispering sadly that you think you will never become close with your mother. Your scream rings in my ear, and the echo tells me you’re tired of crying yourself to sleep. And it tears my heart in half. Thank you for speaking to me. Thank you for your diary. Thank you for your legacy you have left for the world; for me.
I am thirteen years old, the same age you were when you first went into hiding. The same age you were when you set foot into the solitary world you would know for over two years. And at such a young age, your dreams have inspired so many all over the world. And because of you, I have learned not to wait until I am older to achieve my dreams, not to think about “when I grow up, I will…” but to strive to inspire at my age, just as you have. The fact that you have become an amazing, worldwide inspiration both comforts and challenges me.
Reading your account of the two years you spent in hiding, I cried with you, learned with you, dreamed with you. I came to know you and came to appreciate you for who you were. You cried to me so many times about how your family can’t love you for being you. If only you had known that your diary would be published for the world to be inspired by … If only you had known that the “musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl” that you thought nobody would want to read made such a difference on another thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Anne, in the beginning of your diary, you wrote that you did not have your one true friend. And throughout the progression of your diary, you continuously wished that you could have a friend to confide all your sorrows and aspirations in. That was Kitty.
You thought that the only person reading your letters would be you. Your letters so filled with fantasies one day and frustrations the next. But, Anne, the world has become your Kitty. I have become your Kitty. And I am so grateful.
Every time there’s a disagreement or commotion in the Secret Annex, you always come back to your diary. You’ve even wrote once, “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!” As an inspiring writer, just like you, I also find solace in writing. I have school notebooks filled with fragments of ideas for stories, planners with a poem on every other page. But, like you again, I also wonder if I really have talent, worry if I’ll ever be able to write something great. I worry about the same things as you, and although you may have thought they were petty concerns, they’re everything I challenge myself to overcome. And reading your unabashedly honest and real narrative, I found a real friend in you.
As a girl reading your diary over a half a century since you penned them, I know the ending to your story. To the absolutely amazing and inspiring story of your life. And I’m sorry you had to face such injustice. Those who live the most deserving lives always seem to be silenced so unfairly and so brutally. You dreamed so ardently of the days after the war. You wrote yourself to freedom in the space which confined your body but not your soul. I am grateful, for although the world never heard your voice, you have left your words as your story. I’ve gone through hardships in my life as well, though none have been as trying as your years in the Annex, and I’ve gone through them by writing and dreaming my way out, just as you have those long two years. You dared to dream, in spite of the reality that threatened you daily, and you have allowed me to dream as well. “There are no walls, no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.” You are truly a role model to me. You have shown me the subtle beauties in life. You have let me experience the sheer power of words, the words that connect generations across the globe.
You have left a spark in my heart that will kindle the flames of hope in my darkest days. Whenever I despair, or consider giving up, your voice will be whispering your dreams and hopes, because they are mine also. Anne, you needn’t worry those times when you felt no one understood. Because, dearest Anne, because your Kitty understands.