Author: The Freedom Writers & Erin Gruwell
Country: US (1999)
Genre: Nonfiction; Social Science; Diaries and Journals
Challenges: Dangerously Read Challenge
The Freedom Writers Diary is a collaborative effort from high school dubbed "The Freedom Writers" at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. The collection of journal entries are published anonymously. Within these entries are the experiences of Mrs. Gruwell's 150 students, each who began their freshman year believing that they were worthless, and ended their senior year with a diploma and a vision for the future.
Erin Gruwell, a young teacher at Wilson High School, found herself teaching students who were considered unreachable. They were loud, bitter, hardened, and ultimately those that the school wished would disappear. In fact, these students had a lot in common with the educational system - they had given up on themselves as well.
"I hate my neighborhood. It's surrounded by gangsters and drug dealers. There are too many opportunities that seem out of my reach. What goals do I aim for? I don't aim, because I don't have any goals; instead, I deal with what comes." (Diary 9).
And then comes this teacher who is "always trying to give meaning to everything" (Diary 15). Erin Gruwell has these kids study Ann Frank and Zlata Fillipovic - young people who had to find inner strength in times where they were being persecuted. She taught them reading comprehension and writing skills, but she also taught them how to survive and what it means to be tolerant of those that are different from you.
Overall, it sounds like a pretty touching book doesn't it? And I suppose I should have been touched more than what I was. But something was missing. Something was missing in the journal entries. I just didn't feel the emotion that should have gone along with some of the stories that these kids were writing about. They were pouring out their daily struggles - the gangs, going to court, watching friends get killed, parents using drugs; and yet, it all seemed contrived. Over-edited. Forced to be grammatically correct before it was published. Sterile and void of any real emotion. I compare the entries to the retelling of a nightmare later in the day. The heart pounding moment upon first waken is long gone and now that you've existed in 'reality' for a few hours, the nightmare seems so far away that you are completely desensitized. When you share the nightmare with a friend it seems so far away from the truth that your retelling is almost bland and you might throw in a shrug after almost as if to say, "so yeah, I know it sounds far-fetched but I really was scared."