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The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them Paperback – October 12, 1999
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From Library Journal
When Gruwell was a first-year high school teacher in Long Beach, CA, teaching the "unteachables" (kids that no other teacher wanted to deal with), she discovered that most of her students had not heard of the Holocaust. Shocked, she introduced them to books about toleranceAfirst-person accounts by the likes of Anne Frank and Zlata Filopvic, who chronicled her life in war-torn Sarajevo. The students were inspired to start keeping diaries of their lives that showed the violence, homelessness, racism, illness, and abuse that surrounded them. These student diaries form the basis of this book, which is cut from the same mold as Dangerous Minds: the outsider teacher, who isn't supposed to last a month, comes in and rebuilds a class with tough love and hard work. Most readers will be proud to see how these students have succeeded; at the end of their four-year experience, the Freedom WritersAas they called themselves, in honor of the Freedom Riders of the 1960sAhad all graduated; Grunwell now works at the college level, instructing teachers on how to provide more interactive classes for their students. Recommended for youth, education, and urban studies collections.ADanna C. Bell-Russel, Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
ERIN GRUWELL, the Freedom Writers, and her nonprofit organization have received many awards, including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award, and have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Prime Time Live, Good Morning America, and The View, to name a few. All 150 Freedom Writers went on to graduate from Wilson High. She lives in Long Beach, California.
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This book is a collection of 142 diary entries taken from the students and the candidness of these young people will shock some readers. Students share their most private thoughts, and they include daily encounters with physical violence; frequent engagements with guns and gunfire; everyday encounters with dysfunctional family members; and constant reminders of their own problems and those of the world immediately around them. Some of the entries sound like they were taken straight from the dialogue of a violent movie. Others sound like they came from the transcript of a busy social worker. They students generally write with a certain feeling of dread and despair. They cannot believe that anything positive will ever come from their lives and they don't believe that anything will ever get them away from their neighborhoods and away from the suffocating lifestyle that they have known since birth.
But as you read the diary entries, you will slowly notice a change in attitude. It starts out slowly and starts to grow. The pessimistic thoughts and general feelings of gloom and doom are slowly replaced by a positive outlook on life. The entries in this book are in chronological order so that the reader can clearly witness the changes as they take place. There are no names (except for a few exceptions), but in some instances you can tell by the stories which entries were written by the same people based on their content. The transformation of the students is encouraging, and they have Erin Gruwell to thank for the change in attitude that convinces these once hopeless underachievers to realize that they really are capable of great things.
One surprising quality of the entries in this book is the writing itself. It isn't perfect, but it is far better than many readers will imagine. I noticed this right away and I wondered how the students were able to learn to write so effectively in so little time. Then, I discovered why: Erin Gruwell wasn't content to let her students write sloppy, grammatically incorrect diary entries. She insisted that they take time to edit what they wrote each day. Only after close scrutiny with an editor's pen did their ordinary prose become good enough for inclusion in this book. This was a smart- not to mention educational- move by Ms. Gruwell. Not only did it make the entries more readable for publication in a book, it also taught the students how to proofread and make corrections so that their written material would be more presentable.
Overall, The Freedom Writers Diary is a very interesting, very realistic book written by a determined teacher and the 150 students whose lives she helped change for the better. The brutal honesty will shock, enrage, and sadden many readers. But the personal growth of these youngsters as they move from grade to grade and slowly mature into happier, more confident youth is both uplifting and inspiring. It shows the power that one person can have on the lives of others and it's a book worth reading for both educators and others who like books with fresh ideas and positive messages.
May our Heavenly Father help us all to be the persons we were created to be, treating everyone as we would like to be treated in every situation.
God help us all,