The "maidens" of this novella are the all-female students of a German speaking class taught by a male instructor, Professor Bachmann, at a foreign studies university in Kyoto. The class is preparing for a speech contest, and to Mikako and her fellow participants the professor assigns the April 9, 1944, entry from the diary of Anne Frank. The girls rush to memorize the text, although Mikako for some reason can never keep herself from blanking out on the most crucial passage. Then rumors begin to whisper about a clandestine meeting between Bachmann and a student known to her classmates as the "Speech Queen"?a scandal that, if true, will strip the queen of her reputation and her right to include herself among their maidenly number. Mikako learns that Bachmann had only been in his office talking, not to the student, but to his favorite doll Angelika. Soon, however, someone leaks the news that Mikako had been conversing in German with the professor, turning her into the next target. With the students gripped by factional hysteria and fear of secret informants, their idyllic schoolgirl world collides head-on with the stark, tragic historical realities described in Anne's diary, and the story turns to the mystery of who reported Anne to the Nazis. Amid these interwoven plotlines the author grapples with questions about the nature of identity: What is the self? What is the other? Who?or what?draws the boundaries?