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The Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher…
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The Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to… (original 1999; edition 1999)

by The Freedom Writers, Zlata Filipovic (Foreword), Erin Gruwell (Contributor)

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1,785747,678 (3.93)42
Overview: Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students. As an idealistic twenty-three-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, a meeting with US 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. The authors' proceeds from this book will be donated to The Tolerance Education Foundation, an organization set up to pay for the Freedom Writers' college tuition. Erin Gruwell is now a visiting professor at California State University, Long Beach, where some of her students are Freedom Writers.… (more)
Member:phoebenye
Title:The Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them
Authors:The Freedom Writers
Other authors:Zlata Filipovic (Foreword), Erin Gruwell (Contributor)
Info:Broadway (1999), Paperback, 292 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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The Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them by The Freedom Writers (1999)

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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
I enjoyed the unique presentation style and concept. I used the book (and film) in my adult ESOL class and they loved the language and stories. They enjoyed reading something contemporary that could be absorbed in small bites and discussed. It was filled with language and idioms that we use today and they loved learning the 'street English'. ( )
  ColleenLVE | Apr 13, 2022 |
well i know this makes me a total asshole, and i don't mean this to say anything about the people or the work they're doing, but this book is objectively pretty bad. approaching terrible. i think it's all in the editing and their assumption that anyone reading this book already knows about them and what they're doing. also, their commitment to including everyone and all their stories, involving each child, while keeping it anonymous made their task of putting this book together more difficult, i'm sure.

and there are good things about it. i was worried that i'd find a white savior story, and it really didn't seem like that at all, at least not the way it was told. we get important stories of growing up in poverty, violence, danger, with drugs, gangs, violence all around. it is truly heartfelt. they do a relatively nice job of putting the diary entries of 140 or so people together in chronological order from freshman year to graduation to make a general arc of what went on in the four years of this class. (this couldn't have been easy or simple.) and it's important for people to understand that children in the usa go through these things, that we are not immune to this level of trauma, and that we can do something about it.

however. there are myriad problems with this book as it is written. i think it's largely the editing, because it was both obviously edited too much, and also not edited enough. the overblown prose was bad, but also ok in the end. i remember being that age and thinking that purple, mawkish prose was adult and quality writing, so i forgive these kids for writing that way. but some of the writing is obviously not theirs. it's probably edited for length or for understanding, but there's just no way some of these kids were talking this way. i know it's from around 20 years ago and slang was different then, but these essays just don't flow or feel true at all. (except for the experiences. those feel real and so it's a shame that the voices don't.)

we also see these kids change, but they tried too hard to show us this in each essay alone, rather than in an overarching thread that takes us from the first entry to the last. so instead we get things like "No one ever believed in me so I never believed in myself." and the next sentence would be something like "Now I know that I have to believe in myself and that I can do it." but there is no idea how they got there. Each entry is this story of hardship that is important to tell, and then suddenly they have self belief or understand their worth or something, but no information about how the change happened. (ex: "No one really understood what I was feeling. They were so caught up in what they thought about me that they didn't really care. It really bothered me that they didn't even try to understand me. Deep down inside I was just a scared little girl who was simply misunderstood. Maybe it's not so bad to be misunderstood. Now it's time for me to learn to hold my ground and be self-reliant." what??? how does this even happen. virtually ever entry is like this.)

and even more than that: what were they even doing? we are constantly told that the freedom writers have this amazing mission, that their work is important. but we are literally never told what they're doing. we aren't told how this class does anything that is radical or different, just that it is. we aren't told how this teacher makes a difference, just that she does. we aren't told what these kids do to change themselves, just that they do. we are told how important their message is, that it's so important that they're flown all over the country, interviewed by multiple news outlets, that they get all this corporate support and sponsorship because their work is so important, but we aren't ever told what their message is. something about tolerance? i literally don't know.

their work (the actual work they do and the work they did on themselves) sounds like it is something really important and quite amazing. i just don't really have any idea what it was and this book does a terrible job in telling us. so to be clear my rating has nothing to do with them individually or their organization, just this mess of a book. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jan 20, 2022 |
When a rookie English teacher, Erin Gruwell, is faced with 150 Freshmen remedial students, it's time to sink or swim. Looking around her classroom on the first day, she is struck by the way they segregate themselves into groups based on race: Black, Asian, and Latino, with a lone Caucasian student lost in the crowd.

Gruwell, comes up with an idea to get the kids to write by having each keep a journal. They can write anything they want with no repercussions, and write, they do. Gruwell soon realizes that for many of these kids, just surviving the streets is an accomplishment. By listening carefully and creating interactive activities, Gruwell encourages the students to see how similar they are to one another rather than focusing on differences. And for the first time, many of these kids find an adult who is actually taking an interest in them.

As the students move through grades 9, 10, 11, and 12, something wonderful happens. They begin to believe there's more out there than just gang fights and the streets. They learn about respect and begin to have dreams. Together, they compiled this book, which covers a wide range of social issues. Together, they garnered world-wide attention and demonstrated tolerance. Together, they did what most adults thought they couldn't: graduate and go to college.

For a dose of inspiration, pick up this book and read what can happen with a little nurturing and respect. Since this is the 20th anniversary edition, it also includes both tenth-anniversary and twentieth-anniversary entries.

The Bottom Line: This is a story about transformation and coming of age during a time when riots in L.A. were common. Highly recommended reading for high school and college programs. Also, recommended reading for parents and educators. Even though this was written over twenty years ago, many of the topics are still relevant today, maybe even more so.

For the complete review including Book Club Notes, please visit the Mini Book Bytes Book Review Blog. ( )
  aya.herron | Dec 12, 2021 |
Erin Gruwell, The Freedom Writers, and this book are an inspiration to all who encounter them.

At the age of 23, a young and inexperienced teacher set her sites on making a difference by giving her students hope, teaching them unforgettable lessons in tolerance, and seeing them through to their graduation from high school four years later, and beyond.

Even after reading it a second time, I was brought to tears. As a teacher, I’m an moved by Ms. G’s methods and success, and each time I share this book with my students, I witness their emotional response to a truly impactful book. I highly recommend this book to every student, every parent, and every teacher. It is truly inspiring. Together we can make a difference and be the change we wish to see in the world. ( )
  LoriFox | Oct 24, 2020 |
A gripping book on a class that learns to turn the tide of racism and violence! Through diary entries, you get to know the Freedom Writers, the struggle they faced and the message they spread. I found myself at the verge of tears more than once, at the injustice these kids grew up in.
Even though not all entries are literary masterpieces (keep in mind that these are high school kids), their stories are so gripping that this book is sure to leave an impression. ( )
  stormnyk | Aug 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
The Freedom Writersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gruwell, Erinmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Filipovic, ZlataForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Overview: Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students. As an idealistic twenty-three-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, a meeting with US 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. The authors' proceeds from this book will be donated to The Tolerance Education Foundation, an organization set up to pay for the Freedom Writers' college tuition. Erin Gruwell is now a visiting professor at California State University, Long Beach, where some of her students are Freedom Writers.

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Book description
In this book a group of underprivileged students maintain daily journals under the direction of their teacher. Erin Gruwell is starting her first job teaching. That as a freshman and sophomore English teacher a Woodrow Wilson High School. These 150 teens used writing to change themselves and the world around them. She was a brand new teacher and had a very difficult group of kids but she refused to let her kids fail in life. At first she was frightened when teaching such a hard group of students. Many of them were poor, and the teacher had big plans for her kids. She never gives up and teahces people that everyone deserves an education. It is a bunch of journal entries from her students that shows she teaches kids how to be successful in school and out side of school.

I like this book, but i think it can also be confusing for a middle school student. I think it is meant more for high school students. I like that it shares real life situations but I reeally don't understand what some of the kids are going through. I like that the teacher teaches them to be good writers. i know i need a lot of work in writing, and i think it is cool that the teacher didn't give up on her students. Many teahcers give up on their kids but dont really know what they are going through.
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