Saturday, January 1, 2011
35. "The Freedom Writers Diary" by Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers
Gruwell, Erin. The Freedom Writers Diary. New York: Broadway Books, 2009.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
The Freedom Writers Diary is one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. It chronicles the lives of 150 students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. At that time, Long Beach was plagued by poverty, drug trafficking, intimate partner violence, homelessness and gang violence.
Erin Gruwell, a first-time English teacher at Wilson, uses writing as a tool to empower her students—students living in the trenches of Long Beach’s “undeclared war.” This undeclared war is that of the gang violence and poverty the students must face daily.
Erin Gruwell is able to help transform her students’ lives using unorthodox teaching methods. She is able to break through boundaries created by racial tension and segregation and inspire her students to make a positive difference in the world. Gruwell used two main texts—Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo—to teach her students about the effects that intolerance can have on the world.
Despite the school administration’s lack of support, she is able to take her students on trips to places such as Washington D.C., and the Museum of Tolerance. The class also works together to bring in famous speakers like Miep Gies, the woman who sheltered Anne Frank and her family, and Zlata Filipovic, the author of Zlata’s Diary.
As an educator, I’m so impressed with Erin and moved by her students’ stories. It reminded me why I decided to become a teacher, and why I chose to work at the institution I do. It added new depth to my work. Reading the diary entries also made me appreciate my own life more. Things as simple as a cup of coffee are a treasure to me because The Freedom Writers Diary reminds me to always be cognizant of those less fortunate. I am also aware of how life can change in an instant and how one can go from rags to riches (or vice versa) in the blink of an eye.
I think that of all the books I have read this year, this book has had the greatest impact on me.
5 darts out of 5.
Bookshelf project status: KEEP