Book Review of The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves And The World Around Them

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The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell is a compilation of diary entries of approximately 150 students in a Los Angeles school. Ms Gruwell, a first-year teacher, steps into a world of despair, hatred, and anger and ends up teaching her at risk students more than English. Through imagination, enthusiasm, and determination Ms. Gruwell begins an education of tolerance and acceptance in a world where high school students carry guns for protection, where racism and hatred is deep and suffocating. She exposes the kids to the atrocious intolerance of the Holocaust and the Bosnian War with books like Night by Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and Zlatas Diary: A Childs Life in Sarajevo. Through these books their eyes and minds are opened. Like Anne and Zlata, Ms Gruwell assigns the students to write their own diaries. This book is the result of four years worth of selected diary entries that takes the reader through the mindsets of the students and Ms. Gruwell as they all journey from disparate strangers to a family.

I saw the Freedom Writers movie years ago when it first came out and thought it was inspiring. Anyway you look at it, Ms Gruwell is amazing. This teacher put everything she had into making a difference. She worked tirelessly as a teacher, then worked another job to take students on field trips or bring key speakers right to their classrooms. The movie, however, only focused on a few of the students, whereas the book gives us a glimpse into so many more students liveslives I cannot imagine. Each person has a story to tell whether its about abuse, hunger, shootings, being overweight, or having cystic fibrosis. Most live in a war zone; an undeclared war that tear their lives apart. Drugs and violence are prevalent.

Though the conditions and situations the students live with are depressing, the book is uplifting. Its a lesson for all to overcome adversity and plow forward, to educate ourselves and move in a positive direction. If these kids can block out the negativity of the surrounding world and focus on accepting others for who they are while concentrating on their future in a positive way, even striving to go to college, then we, who dont have such obstacles, should be able to soar. Read other reviews at http://readinginthegarden.blogspot.com