The Freedom Writers Diary

For those who have seen the movie “The Freedom Writers”, starring Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey, it is based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary and shows just a few of the students that Erin Gruwell, who is played by Hilary Swank, inspires. If you’re the type who likes to read the book before the movie,  I would recommend reading the book first because it will make the film even more powerful.

The book was written by the 150 students taught by Gruwell over the years in Room 203 of Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. While other teachers labeled these students as “unteachable, at risk” and not worth while, Gruwell saw that they had potential and gave them a way to express themselves and understand each other better: through writing their stories.

There are eight parts to the book, with each part representing a different semester. Each chapter is a different student’s story.  The stories cover so many different topics, such as sorority hazing, joining a gang, homelessness, divorce, absent fathers, pregnancy, and homosexuality, among others.  These stories are real and that is what makes them that much more powerful.  For example, one of the many inspirational stories is written by a girl who gets “jumped” into a gang before meeting Gruwell.  She witnesses a fellow gang member shoot someone and frame a rival for the crime, but is able to gather the courage to tell the police the truth even though she knows doing so will put her life in great danger.

The Freedom Writers Diary leaves you understanding the troubles that these students faced a bit more and serves as an inspirational tale of how one teacher was able to make such a significant difference in the lives of her students.   She taught her students that they could go on to college, an idea that for many of them had never even seemed possible, and that they could be anything they wanted to be.

Even though the Freedom Writers Diary was written in 1999, it is a book that every Latina should read.  Many of the stories can still be found in today’s society and serve as a beacon of hope where patience and compassion can change the life of a student forever. There are so many inspirational moments and times that will make you think differently about the world and people around you.  It is a tale worth reading because it is about real people coping with real world problems.  It shows us that as long as you believe, you can accomplish and overcome anything.

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