As an idealistic 23-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, Erin Gruwell confronted a room of "unteachable, at-risk" students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust, only to be met by uncomprehending looks. So she and her students, using the treasured books Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo as their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. They learned to see the parallels in these books to their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the "Freedom Writers" in homage to the civil rights activists "The Freedom Riders."
With funds raised by a Read-a-thon for Tolerance, they arranged for Miep Gies, the courageous Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family, to visit them in California, where she declared that Erin Gruwell's students were "the real heroes". Their efforts have paid off spectacularly, both in terms of recognition (appearances on Prime Time Live and All Things Considered, coverage in People magazine, and a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley) and educationally. All 150 Freedom Writers have graduated from high school and are now attending college.
With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by Erin Gruwell, The Freedom Writers Diary is an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students.
©1999 The Tolerance Education Foundation; (P)2006 Books on Tape
I loved this book. It was a real awakening as to what goes on in our own back yard. The narration was great. I could not stop thinking about the kids in this book. I wish I could read a follow-up!
Most of this book is excerpted from teen diaries, and the authenticity of the individual voices ring clear. Inspirational but never hokey, it reveals children's pain, hope and discovery. It reaffirmed my belief that there should be no throw-away children. The movie was a pallid shadow of this intriguing book.
This is the true story of a young teacher, Erin Gruwell, and diary entries from her "unteachable" students in Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. When she found a cartoon of a big lipped boy being passed around her classroom, in her rage she told her class that this stereotyping is how the Holocaust got started. When she realized that none of her students had heard of the Holocaust, she assigned the kids The Diary Of Ann Frank, and thus began her program of writing for tolerance and change, rather than violence and ignorance.
This book includes the anonymous entries, for the safety of her students, of the diary writings of her students telling of their personal issues and problems around violence, racism, gang "ethics", drugs, alcoholism, spouse abuse, child sexual abuse, and one parent families, etc. Various activities, visits to famous places, corporate help, and determined hard work changed these kids from failures and hoodlums, into productive kids pursuing college educations and "legal" careers.
Great read for educators, parents, and children who may see the connection of their problem lives to these children. The focus is for hard work, determination, courage, hope, and understanding of the humanity of all kinds of people through sharing ideas in writing rather than violence. Excellent book---good for thought for everyone!!
I would listen again, as I'm sure there are things I would pick up that I might have missed.
I had seen the movie before, listening to the different diaries read by different people was a bit confusing at first. But excellent read. Wish all students had a teacher like this one.
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