WHEN I FIRST HEARD OF Alison Leslie Gold in the late eighties, I had no idea what a visionary author she was, or how much she would teach me about the writing life. I knew only that the founder of the desert recovery house where I worked was hoping Gold would write about the place. I worked with many teenagers there whose stories needed telling, but the only thing these kids desired more than fame was secrecy. Had they spilled the whole truth, they might have attracted more interest from law enforcement than the reading public. (This reticence was shared by the staff as well.)
Anyway, Gold was on to covering a story of considerably larger proportions: that of the crimes of the Nazis against Jewish refugees in Holland. I had not heard of Miep Gies, the woman who protected Anne Frank and her family until they were taken off to Bergen Belsen, but I know now that Miep's candor was the exact opposite of what Gold would have found had she come to the desert. Anne Frank Remembered, Miep's story, which Gold wrote with her, is a book which will, in all likelihood, sell forever. It's a testament to Gold's insight that she was able to see how badly we needed to hear from this quiet woman who protected Anne Frank's diary without reading it, hoping to return it to Anne when she came back. But this was not to be. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived, and when Miep turned over Anne's diary to him, he realized it had to be published.
It may not seem a compliment that I cannot recall the first time I met Alison Gold, but that is one of the great guns in her arsenal. She's very attractive, with a mischievous smile and clear brown eyes, but she can present when she wants to like the dun colored peahen ignoring the flashy peacock. No designer bags, no implants, nothing shiny and red. Such a rarity in a loud town like L.A., where everybody is screaming to be seen. But Gold chooses to arrive quietly, because she is there to discover the story, not be it.
Gold helped Miep relate the details of how she hid Anne Frank and six others for two years until their hiding place was betrayed. We catch a glimpse of this feisty kid from the perspective of a kind adult. Penned up in that tiny annex was a girl on the verge of adolescence. Miep Gies brought her a pair of red high heels. This story becomes all the more compelling because Anne is so normal. But it goes beyond simply sharing her short life.
There is a kind of prescience in the text as if Miep is warning us that one day the meekest among us may be required to stand and deliver should this darkness come round again:
I am afraid that if people feel that I am a very special person, a sort of heroine, they may doubt whether they will do the same as I once did. Not many consider themselves very talented or courageous and thus would refrain from helping endangered people. This is the reason that I want everyone to know that I am a very common and cautious woman and definitely not a genius or daredevil. I did help like so many others who ran the same or more risk than me. It was necessary so I helped.
Anne Frank Remembered had become quite a sensation by the time that Gold and I became friends around 1990. I was trying to write, but having a hard time controlling my material. I'd produce in spasms, when inspiration presented itself, falling into self-loathing doldrums when it would peter out, and rarely would I send anything out.
One day I was at Ali...