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on January 27, 2007
I saw the movie, then went out and bought the book. I sat down and read the book cover to cover in one sitting; I couldn't put it down. It's true that this book has not been prettied up. There is harsh language, there is sex, and there is drugs. But the writers don't glorify sex or drugs. They speak honestly about their lives, including their struggles with addictions, abuse, pregnancy, and above all, violence.

The book works because it is real. Erin Gruell's teaching worked because she allowed the students to be real, to be honest, and to be themselves. If anything, the movie downplayed Erin Gruell's accomplishments. From the book, one learns that she started her efforts to reach out to the students, including working a second job, when she was still a student teacher, a time during which most teachers, even in "safe" suburban schools, are just trying to survive day to day. The book also points out that there were 150 "freedom writers" in five classes, not the one small class shown in the movie.

I have been teaching at the high school and college level for ten years. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is honestly interested in making education a more meaningful experience for the students. It's true that parts of the students' lives are not pretty. But that is exactly the point.
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on May 16, 2001
The Freedom Writer's Diary is a truly amazing project that teacher, Erin Gruwell and her students created. The diary is insighful and offers much meaning to the reader. This book is the product of what young people can achieve.
The book is divided into a variety of topics where the students reflect on the assigned readings and make connections to their current realities. The parallels are often heart-wrenching and painful. These are their stories...
The Freedom Writers were students who were labelled as at-risk and unteachable until one remarkable person, Erin Gruwell entered their lives. Gruwell rejected the labels and saw the pontential that all young people possess, a lesson for us all.
The back cover of the book says it the best, through the use of literature and Erin Gruwell as the guide, the Freedom Writers, "undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding."
Highly recommended, read this and you will surely expand your awareness.
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on January 6, 2000
This inspirational book is a must read for teenagers, parents, teachers, and just folks. If i could, i'd buy a copy for everyone i know. In their own voices and in beautifully crafted prose, teenagers tell stories of their daily lives: the physical and emotional war zones they inhabit become real to the reader. With the help of an inspirational teacher, these students read other teenagers' stories and learn to see thier lives in historical context. They read diaries by two girls their own age: Anne Frank, who died in the Holocaust, and Zlata Filipovic, who lived through the war in Sarajevo. This is education with a capital E. Erin Gruwell empowers these young people to transform their realities through the power of the word. The spirit of Anne Frank and the original Freedom Riders lives on in these young heros from Long Beach.
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on February 18, 2007
My daughter is adopted. She is also African American and her father and I are White. She is well aware of the racism in this world. Also being learning disabled reading does not come easy for her. I got her this book in hopes to peak her interest in reading. I got so very much more!! She was able to relate to the struggles the students at Wilson High School were going through. Although she is not a student that would be deemed "Unteachable at-risk" as the students in this book were she was able to put her self in thier shoes and walk along side them relating to many of their day to day issues. My daughter has always loved to journal but now does it with a whole new purpose. I really had no idea this book would make such a profound difference in her life! This book is well written and easy to understand but not oversimplified causing you to lose interest. Written in such a manner you get to know the students as if you were in class with them each day. Making it easy to feel their struggles, pain and their joys. I purchased a copy for myself and read along with my daughter. This book helped me see more clearly the struggles my daughter was and is going through living is a world marked with intolerance. I wish every school in America had thier own Mrs. Gruwell!!!!
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on December 14, 1999
Having spent an hour and a half with tears streaming down my face at an appearance by Erin Gruwell and four of her Freedowm Writers, I bought the book. That was Friday afternoon. It's now Wednesday night, and I can't stop telling people about this book. The kids' entries ring so true to anyone who's been around today's youth for any length of time (sorry, Erin Salona). The parallels that Erin helped the kids see between Anne Frank's and Zlata's lives and their own provided the inspiration for her students to pick up a pen rather than a gun. Their message of tolerance needs to be heard by everyone! I only wish I could afford to buy a case so that I could give copies to some of my former sixth grade students who remain "at-risk" students. A must-read for all teachers and parents!
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on August 23, 2001
I wish that everyone who doubts that one person could possibly make a difference in the world would read this book. Talk about inspiration! Erin Gruwell, as a beginning teacher who was "stuck" with the students that no one else wanted to teach, transformed those 150 students over the course of their four years in high school into a group of passionate, determined young men and women instead of the doomed nobodies that they originally saw themselves to be. These teens have lived terrible lives, survived situations that many people try to pretend don't even exist, and have come to adulthood believing in themselves for the first time. Many of the journal entries in this book actually made me cry.
I am a beginning teacher myself, and though my students are not the at-risk youth that Ms. Gruwell taught, I can strongly identify with her and with her accomplishments - giving me hope that someday I can make as significant a contribution to my community that she has to hers.
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on February 23, 2001
This book explains in huge detail the lives of young teens going through pretty much hell.The teens' family and friends die sometimes because of their religion, sometimes because of their race and sometimes for no reason at all. I personally don't think thats right.In the beginning of the book,Mrs.Gruwell, the teacher, was a little scared to teach what the school called 'high risk drop out' students. Also in the beginning, the students snicker and laugh at each other. By the end of the book, they are all friends, and the teacher, Mrs. Gruwell, is their best friend. The lives of theese students change so much it's unbelievable. I highly reccomend this book to all people. This book will grab your attention and you will get sucked in as soon as you read the first page! THE FREEDOM WRITERS DIARY, you'll most likely love it!!!!
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on March 2, 2002
This is an enormously inspirational story. If you have no idea what it's like to grow up in urban America today, these teens paint a picture of the daily struggle for survival that is every bit as poignant as "Boys 'N the Hood" or "Fresh." Erin Gruwell's work on their behalf is sensational.
I have a few misgivings, though, as I often do when reading stories about such `Super-Teachers': that they achieve so much with their students at the expense of everything else that gives balance to a life. Ms. Gruwell worked extra jobs to pay for field trips, supplies, etc. She was often at work late into the evening. What isn't made explicit-though one can pick it up immediately-is the cost of such sacrifices. No relationship with a significant other, which is something that challenges a person to grow in a way that an imbalanced relationship (such as a teacher with his or her students) does not do. No children to raise, which is among the most important work a person can do in life (listen to how many of her students wish more than anything for a father to be close to). She dedicated her life solely to her teaching, and it's a profession which is always ready to take more of one's time and energy. Those who don't let teaching become their entire lives can wind up being good, even great, teachers for decades. Those who immerse themselves in their teaching to the exclusion of everything else wind up doing what Erin Gruwell (and 50% of all new teachers) did: they leave the profession within five years. Now I read that she's ready to leave her position at CSULB-she's apparently running for Congress. It is difficult to teach as well as she did at both the high school and university level. Harder still, it seems, is to stick with it for the long haul.
In the end, it's her life to do with as she pleases. But I think the book is a set-up for many young teachers. Gruwell was not only dedicated to her students, and for four years lived only for them, but she was an exceptionally gifted teacher. If those entering the profession are to emulate her, what's to become of their own lives? How are they to make a career of teaching if their model left after four years? Is 150 students enough? To the last question I could certainly answer "yes"-changing the life of any one person is beautiful. The answers to the other questions are unknown, and that's a sad point which few are willing to acknowledge.
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on January 11, 2007
I am a masters student in college of education. During my undergraduate years, all education majors took a class in which we learned and discussed about diversity, social injustice, and racism. However, as many people know, most of the education majors are whites from middle or upper class--therefore, many of them, including me, did not have any idea of what kind of life students in low socio-economic status were enduring. Many white students did not understand that racism still exists in this country. In that class, we read several good books about this issue, such as "Savage Inequality" I loved, but I really wished that we could have read this book as well by Freedom Writers. It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. I strongly recommend to read this book to anyone who are going to be a school teacher.
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on June 18, 2001
As a prospective high school teacher who will most likely work in a school demographically similar to Wilson High, I am deeply inspired by the story of Erin Gruwell and her amazing students. Branded their entire lives as underacheivers and losers, Gruwell's students, with the help of an extremely determined and passionate teacher, were able to use writing as a means of fighting back against the labels they were given and succeed despite the odds. I really liked the way Gruwell got her students interested in learning about events like the Holocaust and the war in Bosnia by relating those events to the daily gang warfare that had become so much a part of her students' lives. Not only did this lesson make learning meaningful, but Gruwell managed to get a bunch of students who "hated to read" to get excited about meeting the woman who hid Anne Frank from the Nazis, as well as spending several days with a young girl who had fled the war in Bosnia. This book is a must-read particularly for young and inexperienced teachers because it shows how Gruwell, who started the Freedom Writers as an inexperienced 23-year-old teacher, was able to make such a positive change in her students' lives. Gruwell has managed to engage her students in a way that many teachers with 30 years or more of teaching experience have yet to accomplish. The Freedom Writers Diary has taught me that even I, an inexperienced teacher only slightly older than Gruwell when she started, can potentially have the same effect on my students through determination and a strong belief in what my students can accomplish.
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