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The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell
320 Pages
Publisher: Broadway Books
(December 2006)
ISBN: 0767924908
Price: S$25.20 (Available in Borders)





If you have friends who are teachers, you’d often be hearing them complain about how terrible their students are, and how this has in turn made them stressed and uptight about their work.

While we are not experts in the field of education, we’d recommend all teachers to get this book to get inspired and uplifted by a true story about a teacher and her students.

Written in diary form by Erin Gruwell and her students who call themselves “The Freedom Writers” (a tribute to civil rights activists The Freedom Riders), this book tells the story of how Gruwell idealistically began teaching at Wilson High School in Long Beach, not knowing the perils of how “unteachable” the students are.

We are talking about students who face violence, murder and death in their everyday lives here. Be thankful we don’t have a classroom of students like that here on our sunny island.

Like one of those true-life accounts you have read somewhere before, the class is rebuilt by Gruwell, thanks to her interactive methods of teaching and her use of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo as their main texts.

While there is no way we can forget our planned syllabus here, there is something for both educators and teenagers to take away with this sincere book.

Honestly and fiercely written, the entries may be ridden with angst in the beginning, but you can feel the gradual change in tone as the book progresses. Several topics like survival, racism and equality are dealt with here, and it won’t shun you off with big complicated ideas. What you get a simple-to-understand diary entries which make you reflect on a deeper level on the messages behind those words.

Furthermore, proceeds from the sale of this book will support the Freedom Writers Foundation, which is founded to share the Freedom Writers Method with schools around the world.

Anyone out there from our local education system reading this should take note.


Actually, normalcy didn’t seem so bad after my first snafu. I took my students to see Schindler’s List in Newport Beach, at a predominantly white, upper-class theater. I was shocked to see women grab their pearls and clutch their purses in fear. A local paper ran a front-page article about the incident, describing how poorly my students were treated, after which I received death threats. One of my disgruntled neighbors had the audacity to say, “If you love black people so much, why don’t you just marry a monkey?”


A motivating and stirring account of Gruwell and her students who courageously fought the system in the name of education. Sure, it reads like a feel-good, sappy and conventional story of how a teacher transformed her naughty kids – but in times like this, a book like this one may change your worldview on certain issues.
Go to www.freedomwritersfoundation.org to find out more about this noble cause.

Review by John Li


. Freedom Writers (Movie Review)



This book review is made possible with the kind sponsor of BORDERS


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