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