The true story behind The Freedom Writers Diary began in the fall of 1994, at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, when an idealistic twenty-three-year-old high school teacher, Erin Gruwell, faced her first group of high-risk teenagers. These teens, a diverse mix of students from some of the roughest neighborhoods in Long Beach, soon made it apparent to the young teacher that they were not interested in learning a lot of facts that wouldn’t help them survive their own life situations. Fortunately, however, for all concerned, a monumental event occurred when Ms Gruwell found a caricature of an Afro-American student and was able to turn the situation into a character building session comparing the found picture which those caricatures drawn of the Jews during the Holocaust. As the session progressed, many of the students began to reveal their personal anger and prejudices, as well as, their own tales of abuse including the battle scars that they had received in their own war of survival.  

For many of the students Ms. Gruwell’s methods and educational philosophy was their first exposure to an adult that encouraged them to view diversity as a chance to learn about other cultures, to shatter old stereotypes and to change their lives for the better by ridding themselves of bigotry and preconceived opinions about themselves and others. As they progressed from freshman to seniors under her tutorage the students, found themselves and their attitudes towards each other and learning changing to such a point that they all united dubbing themselves the Freedom Writers in honor of the original Freedom Riders involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  

The book itself contains the unbelievably sad, yet quite graphic, and possibly too adult accounts of these student’s lives presented in the form of 150 personal diary accounts. Throughout their diaries, these young men and women graphically describe what they have experienced including detailed accounts of both sexual and physical abuse; explicit street language; and extreme violence. Basically, it takes the reader into the lives of urban America as it reveals the minds of urban youths while sharing the power of a multi-cultural vision.  

It is a great book and encourages all of us, young and old alike, to really think about what others may be forced to contend with in their every day lives before passing judgment on them. So while graduating from high school is a normal expectation by many it should be accepted for these teens, it was about accomplishing an “unrealistic” goal. This book was powerfully uplifting, and will inspire all readers not just educators and social workers [tags]The Freedom Writers Diary, overcoming, Erin Gruwell, diversity, Teems, students,[/tags]