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Best-selling author to discuss craft, give public reading


February 10, 2010

Many adults remember reading Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” as a junior-high or high-school student. This best-selling book, published in 1947, was written by a young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis in an attic in Holland with her family for two years.

Novelist Francine Prose has taken a fresh look at the diary in her book, “Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife,” published in October 2009. Prose’s book is a February selection for the Piper Center for Creative Writing’s Online Book Club, and Prose will give a free reading at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Prose also will discuss the book at a Public Craft Q&A at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, at the Piper Writers House on Arizona state University’s Tempe campus.

Though the diary is quoted by both students and statesmen, Prose says it's time the diary was appreciated as literature — not just as a historical document.

In “Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife,” Prose examines Frank's tremendous literary gift, as well as her maturity and insight.

Prose says that Frank’s voice is “a nuanced one that mixes inspiring optimism with the deepest of pessimism,” and that though Frank started the diary at age 13, “the voice we read is really that of an older, more insightful teen.

"She decided that she wanted the book to be published, and she went back to the beginning and she re-wrote all the entries she wrote as a 13-year-old, except of course now she was a 15-year-old.”

Prose grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Radcliffe College with a degree in English literature. She briefly attended graduate school in medieval English literature, then left Harvard to live for a year in India, where she began to write her first novel, “Judah the Pious.”

Upon returning home, she sent her novel to a former writing teacher who in turn forwarded it to the legendary editor Harry Ford, then at Atheneum. He bought the book immediately, and it was published when she was 26.

Since then, Prose has written 14 novels, among them “Bigfoot Dreams”; “Primitive People”; “Household Saints” -- which was made into a 1993 film;  “Blue Angel,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award; “A Changed Man”; and “Goldengrove.”

Prose is the recipient of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, The Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA grants, two New York State Council on Arts grants, a PEN Translation Prize, and two Jewish Book Council Prizes.

In 1989, she traveled throughout the former Yugoslavia on a Fulbright Fellowship. She is currently a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard College and has taught at Harvard, the University of Arizona, the University of Utah, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences.

The mother of two grown sons, she lives in New York City with her husband, the painter and illustrator, Howard Michels.

For more information about Prose’s reading, or joining the Online Book Club, contact the Piper Center for Creative Writing, (480) 965-6018, or www.asu.edu/piper.