Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Freedom Writer's Diary, the Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell

On her first day teaching English to high school kids in Long Beach, California, Erin Gruwell was astonished by the racism and the gang environment that her students came from. When she intercepted a racist picture, she angrily told them that that was how the Holocaust started, only to be met by blank stares. That was when she abandoned textbooks and conventional teaching methods and gave them The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo to read. Thus they undertook a life-changing odyssey against intolerance, racism and misunderstanding. Though the book may be a bit contrived, it was definitely a wonderful project. It is constructed by diary entries from various anonymous members of the class, and it was amazing to see how their attitudes changed. At the beginning of the book, most of them were grumbling about their crazy English teacher, but then they grew to respect, admire, and love her, as well as understand the concepts that she was trying to teach them. This was an interesting book, and it reminded me about the hardships that people face, even right here in America. Many diary entries are from kids whose friends or siblings have been shot and killed right in the street by gangs, and their accounts are particularly memorable and moving. 277 pages, 4.8 stars.

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