Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Freedom Writers Diary

Gruwell, Erin. The Freedom Writers. New York: Broadway Books, 1999.

Plot Summary
This book is a collection of student essays written for Erin Gruwell's "at-risk" English classes. Through the writing, Ms. Gruwell was able to reach her students and show how their environment was much like others around the world. The Freedom Writers studied The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. The students became inspired by these teenage writers to make a difference and change their own lives.

Critical Analysis
WOW! This is an incredible book. As a teacher, I wondered if I'd ever make this kind of difference to my students. I read with sadness and curiosity about the lives of Erin Gruwell's students.

Each entry is kept anonymous. There are entries of their experiences, but one that I marked was Diary 85 (page 169) because the writer is talking about visiting the Holocaust Museum. I've been to this museum in Los Angeles and what the writer describes is what I remember seeing and thinking for myself.

I actually had the opportunity to listen and meet Ms. Gruwell at Tarleton. What an inspiring teacher! Only after I heard here did I pick up the book. I not only bought Freedom Writers' Diary, but the teacher's guide and the book Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers. I'm anxious to start both books.

Another thing I flagged in the book was a quote from Anne Frank:
...we have the opportunity to get an education and make something
of ourselves. We have many reasons to hope for great happiness, but
we have to earn it. And that is something you can't achieve by taking
the easy ways out. Earning happiness means doing good and working,
not speculating and being lazy. 274

What Jackie Taught Us


Flaherty, Tina Santi. What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. New York, Penguin Group, 2004.

Plot Summary
This is a brief biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The book includes pictures from Jackie's childhood, her family and adulthood. Each chapter title begins with the "lesson" that Jackie taught us and the text illustrates how so.

Critical Analysis

I really enjoyed reading this book and learning more about the First Lady. She was an extraordinary woman and an icon for what America can be. One thing I thought was interesting about her influence is the reference to "Camelot" with her husband's presidency. That term was not used until after his death. Since I was not alive during his presidency, I did not know this.

The author lived in the same New York apartment building as Jackie and had brief exchanges in the elevator.

One thing I really liked about this book is that the biography did not stop after John Kennedy was shot. Jackie's story continues until her death. I'm glad the author continued the story because so many books I've read about Jackie don't include her marriage to Aristotle Onassis (or there is only a brief mention of him).

I actually bought this book at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas. I read almost the entire thing on the ride back home. Jackie was an interesting lady that helped create an iconic image of the role of First Lady.