Claire Neibergall's Reviews > The Freedom Writers Diary

The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell
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Dec 06, 11

Read in December, 2011

The Freedom Writers Diary with Erin Gruwell is an inspiring book about strength, relationships, and perseverance against stereotypes and intolerance. The book is a collection of narrative diary entries by and young English teacher and underachieving, high risk students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. It took place from 1994 through 1998 following kids from freshman year, all the way to senior year with the same English teacher, Erin Gruwell. She wanted to transform the lives of over her students in that she taught at Wilson High School. The veteran teachers at Wilson High School basically labeled these kids as “bad” or “the ones who clearly had no hope to get through high school”. Instead of rejecting them as all the other teachers did, Ms. Gruwell actually cared and wanted to get to know them better and did not discard them because of how they looked. That factor gave them hope.
The main purpose of this book was to view life from the students’ perspective and how Ms. Gruwell’s English class gave them hope to try to positively change their lives. Personal struggles of physical and sexual abuse, drug abuse, homelessness, and gang violence had caused the students to already lose hope that they could succeed at life. Each of the students who participated in Freedom Writer’s class examined their lives and used the diary assignments to express their thoughts without fear of having their feelings and story exposed to others. Diary assignments were to express their opinion on their point of view and share their stories in their personal narrative diaries that they were given.
Each of the Freedom Writers was stereotyped into a certain group that was written off by the school and society. Intolerance of others who are different and overcoming difficulties were main themes throughout the book. The students and most the adults in their lives could not move past their pre-conceived notions of these stereotypes and the resulting violence. In Diary number 2, the only white student in Ms Gruwell’s freshman English class writes, “This school is just asking for trouble when they put all of the kids in the same class. It’s a disaster waiting to happen”. It wasn’t an easy road for Ms. Gruwell either, the kids in her class stereotyped her as a “preppy” teacher who wouldn’t last as their teacher. Ms. Gruwell works to show her students that while stereotypes exist, there is hope by exploring different works of literature which included, “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl” and “Zlata’ Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo”.
The Freedom Writers and Ms. Gruwell narrate their story through diary entries which allows the reader to have a glimpse into the personal struggles and journey that is travelled. The students anonymously describe personal experiences which causes the reader to learn about the sometimes terrifying reality that these students faced every day. Some of the students face their addictions to drugs and surviving gang violence while other students describe how Ms. Gruwell goes from their enemy to their trusted friend.
This book was unlike any other book I have read in the past as it opened my eyes to some of the day to day struggles that some kids face in life. The diary entries were easy to read and comprehend as they were short and written by teenagers in my same age group. I also liked it since all the Freedom Writers came together as a team to write and tell their stories to the world. When it came to the end of the book, I did not want the book to end because these students were the “rejects” in the beginning and then they were off to college, which was one of their goals. I wanted to learn more about their experiences after High School and how they overcame the obstacles that they faced during that time. The story was uplifting and motivational and I would recommend this book to everyone, especially those who are facing difficulties and feel that they have lost hope of succeeding.
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