Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Freedom Writers Diary (Movie Tie-in Edition): How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them

The Freedom Writers Diary (Movie Tie-in Edition): How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them

4.5 210
by The Freedom Writers

See All Formats & Editions


Shocked by the teenage violence she witnessed during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Erin Gruwell became a teacher at a high school rampant with hostility and racial intolerance. For many of these students–whose ranks included substance abusers, gang members, the homeless, and



Shocked by the teenage violence she witnessed during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Erin Gruwell became a teacher at a high school rampant with hostility and racial intolerance. For many of these students–whose ranks included substance abusers, gang members, the homeless, and victims of abuse–Gruwell was the first person to treat them with dignity, to believe in their potential and help them see it themselves. Soon, their loyalty towards their teacher and burning enthusiasm to help end violence and intolerance became a force of its own. Inspired by reading The Diary of Anne Frank and meeting Zlata Filipovic (the eleven-year old girl who wrote of her life in Sarajevo during the civil war), the students began a joint diary of their inner-city upbringings. Told through anonymous entries to protect their identities and allow for complete candor, The Freedom Writers Diary is filled with astounding vignettes from 150 students who, like civil rights activist Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders, heard society tell them where to go–and refused to listen.

Proceeds from this book benefit the Freedom Writers Foundation, an organization set up to provide scholarships for underprivieged youth and to train teachers

Product Details

Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Freshman Year

Fall 1994

Entry 1 — Ms. Gruwell

Dear Diary, Tomorrow morning, my journey as an English teacher officially begins. Since first impressions are so important, I wonder what my students will think about me. Will they think I'm out of touch or too preppy? Or worse yet, that I’m too young to be taken seriously? Maybe I’ll have them write a journal entry describing what their expectations are of me and the class.

Even though I spent last year as a student teacher at Wilson High School, I’m still learning my way around the city. Long Beach is so different than the gated community I grew up in. Thanks to MTV dubbing Long Beach as the “gangsta–rap capital” with its depiction of guns and graffiti, my friends have a warped perception of the city, or L B C as the rappers refer to it. They think I should wear a bulletproof vest rather than pearls. Where I live in Newport Beach is a utopia compared to some of neighborhoods seen in a Snoop Doggy Dogg video. Still, TV tends to blow things out of proportion.

The school is actually located in a safe neighborhood, just a few miles from the ocean. Its location and reputation make it desirable. So much so that a lot of the students that live in what they call the “’hood” take two or three buses just to get to school every day. Students come in from every corner of the city: Rich kids from the shore sit next to poor kids from the projects … there's every race, religion, and culture within the confines of the quad. But since the Rodney King riots, racial tension has spilled over into the school.

Due to busing and an outbreak in gang activity, Wilson’s traditional white, upper–class demographics have changed radically. African Americans, Latinos, and Asians now make up the majority of the student body.

As a student teacher last year, I was pretty naive. I wanted to see past color and culture, but I was immediately confronted by it when the first bell rang and a student named Sharaud sauntered in bouncing a basketball. He was a junior, a disciplinary transfer from Wilson’s crosstown rival, and his reputation preceded him. Word was that he had threatened his previous English teacher with a gun (which I later found out was only a plastic water gun, but it had all the makings of a dramatic showdown). In those first few minutes, he made it brutally clear that he hated Wilson, he hated English, and he hated me. His sole purpose was to make his “preppy” student teacher cry. Little did he know that within a month, he’d be the one crying.

Sharaud became the butt of a bad joke. A classmate got tired of Sharaud’s antics and drew a racial caricature of him with huge, exaggerated lips. As the drawing made its way around the class, the other students laughed hysterically. When Sharaud saw it, he looked as if he was going to cry. For the first time, his tough facade began to crack.

When I got a hold of the picture, I went ballistic. “This is the type of propaganda that the Nazis used during the Holocaust,”I yelled. When a student timidly asked me, “What's the Holocaust?” I was shocked.

I asked, “How many of you have heard of the Holocaust?”Not a single person raised his hand. Then I asked, “How many of you have been shot at?”Nearly every hand went up.

I immediately decided to throw out my meticulously planned lessons and make tolerance the core of my curriculum.

From that moment on, I would try to bring history to life by using new books, inviting guest speakers, and going on field trips. Since I was just a student teacher, I had no budget for my schemes. So, I moonlighted as a concierge at the Marriott Hotel and sold lingerie at Nordstrom. My dad even asked me, “Why can't you just be a normal teacher?”

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 predominately 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?”

All this drama and I didn't even have my teaching credentials yet. Luckily, some of my professors from University of California–Irvine read the article and invited my class to a seminar by the author of Schindler’s List, Thomas Keneally. Keneally was so impressed by my students that a few days later we got an invitation to meet Steven Spielberg at Universal Studios. I couldn’t believe it! The famous director wanted to meet the class that I had dubbed “as colorful as a box of Crayola crayons” and their “rookie teacher who was causing waves.” He marveled at how far these “unteachable” students had come as a junior class and what a close group they had become. He even asked Sharaud what “we” were planning to do next year as an encore. After all, if a film does well, you make a sequel—if a class surpasses everyone's expectations, you…

…dismantle it! Yep, that’s exactly what happened. Upon my return from Universal, the head of the English department told me, “You’re making us look bad.”Talk about bursting my bubble! How was I making them look bad? After all, these were the same kids that “wouldn't last a month” or “were too stupid” to read advanced placement books.

She went on to say, “Things are based on seniority around here.” So, in other words, I was lucky to have a job, and keeping Sharaud and his posse another year would be pushing the envelope. Instead, I’d be teaching freshmen—“at risk” freshmen. Hmm …not exactly the assignment I was hoping for.

So, starting tomorrow, it’s back to the drawing board. But I’m convinced that if Sharaud could change, then anyone can. So basically, I should prepare myself for a roomful of Sharauds. If it took a month to win Sharaud over … I wonder how long it’s gonna take a bunch of feisty fourteen–year-olds to come around?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

ERIN GRUWELL, the Freedom Writers, and her nonprofit organization have received many awards,  including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award, and have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Prime Time Live, Good Morning America, and The View, to name a few. All 150 Freedom Writers went on to graduate from Wilson High. She lives in Long Beach, California.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 210 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first heard about this movie and book I didn't think it would be nice but now I'm glad that I saw it because it has touched me alot. You would never know what it feels like to be in their position unless you have been through it. You know how they say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I did and I ended up to be so wrong, that is one of the best movies i have ever watched and it taught me a life lesson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I feel as though this novel was phenomenal! It had everything a reader could ask for, strength, courage, and perseverance. This compelling story touched my heart in such a way that has changed the way I now think. Writing isn't just to record documentation but also to record the story of your life and soon people and you will begin to see the change in your daily life. All it took was the dedication of one teacher to inspire a group of students to do the same. At first the group were a disruptive, obnoxious group, now a group turned into passionate, ambitious students. This group put their hearts and entire trust into one teacher to change their lives forever. Their determination helped them accomplish the greatest achievements and allowed them to aspire to their greatest dreams. I feel if one person could change the attitude of several students, I could do the same. We can make a difference in the world and more important in someone's life, only if we try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually saw the movie first and was so inspired and intrigued that I logged onto barnesandnoble.com to buy the book that day. I must say I am not disappointed. The book, very much like the movie, brings the reader closer to the real-life characters that the Freedom Writers were. An expolration that delves into many different life situations, this book is an eye-opener that truly brings to life the spirit of the Freedom Writers and their teacher, Erin Gruwell.
Maggie89 More than 1 year ago
The Freedom Writers Diary was a very good book. I enjoyed reading about their experiences through the different viewpoints of the student and what they thought about what they are learning. I also like how Ms. G was able to get her kids interested in learning, instead of beating each other up, and showing them that even though they are different form each other, that they all have the same things in common. This book helped me to see a different way of teaching students, which will help me because I wish to become a teacher. Thank you Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell for sharing your story with us.
great_achiever_2008 More than 1 year ago
The The Freedom Writers Diary is an interesting book that probably many teenagers can relate to with their life experiences. This book was published in 2006 and was a number one New York Times bestseller. This story is about an ideal teacher who strives hard to help her students. Erin Gruwell lived in long beach California for most of her life with her father. When she decided to become a teacher, her father was very excited but didn¿t think that she was able to pursue a dream of teaching children in the disturbed community of Los Angeles. Ms Gruwell moved to Newport Beach to follow her dream of changing the lives of troubled teens. Once she settled herself in class, one student stood out to her when he drew a racial caricature on a sheet of paper. Gruwell wanted to change the image of these students because she saw potential in all of these children and the mentality that most of them had was violent. She was determined to prove society wrong because these children are history and they have something to prove. Gruwell used writing as one of her strategies to change their lives. This book was an inspiration to young girls and boys who think that they can¿t change the world around because of their circumstances or position.This book tellsus that life isn¿t about money or any fortunate life style but it¿s about accomplishments.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Freedom Writers By The Freedom Writers, Erin Gruwell, Zlata Filipovic is a good book. It's about an english teacher who really gets involved with her students. She gives the students the space and freedom to write about things that heppened to them in their life, and also let's them explain how they feel about the things that happened.She also design assignments that the students can relate to or provide help and advise to ways to deal with the obstacles that they are faced with on a daily basis. The book is a collection of diary entries by different students with different experiences; also the teacher Ms. Gruwell added in a few entries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great for a look into how teenagers in a tough neighborhood really view the world. They don't. The world, to them, is their tiny community. They can't get out and grow or learn if they are fighting for their basic needs to be met at home. Some of them fight alone, some have the support of friends or a gang, a few have parental support and a finite lucky few had the opportunity to break that cycle because they had Erin Gruwell show them that they could find support beyond race, they could travel beyond the projects and could reach new potentials that they had lost hope for long ago. They could make a difference. And they did.

(It's a fast read, easy to pick up and put down because of the diary entries. I learned a lot, had my eyes opened, teared up, smiled, and laughed out loud. I highly recommend this book).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. It makes anyone who reads this feel as if they are guilty because of what the charcters faced in this book. Its very sad story but its worth the money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book for a few reasons. I had watched the movie a few times loved it every time. The movie only goes through freshman and sophomore years and the book goes freshman through senior years so I wanted to read it and hear the rest of their stories.
This book is such an inspiration. These are the diaries of 150 students compiled into one book. Ms. Gruwell fought to help her, so called, "reject" class. Being a first year teacher at Wilson High she doesn't get the respect of her fellow teachers, the choice of which class she gets or books for her class. She get's two extra jobs to help pay for the brand new books she get's for her students.
She has this idea to change their lives. Every student gets a notebook to write down all of their experiences in them, to express their feelings. She takes them on field trips to help them learnt and they raise money to bring in special guests.
This book is an inspiration because it shows that one teacher can change the lives of 150 students. This book is the students stories, their undeclared war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book because it is about true experiences of teenagers that really went through the situations they talk about. It is a collection of diaries the students wrote for themselves and for their teacher. This was a very special teacher who made a difference in their lives. She made them write about their experiences so they could express their feelings. It is incredible that real people actually live like this. And it is even more incredible how with some love and understanding one single teacher could change their lives so much. The book exists because she decided to publish their stories, and a movie producer even made a film about it. Normally I can identify with a character in a book, but here I could not identify with anybody, simply because they all have such hard lives. I was especially touched by the diary of this guy who is dyslexic. His mom did everything she could for him, and sent him to a special school where they taught him to read and write properly, but he had to leave and enter a regular school where he had the good luck of ending in this very special teacher´s class. She made a big difference in their future. But I won´t say anymore. If you want to find out what happened to him and his classmates by the end of high school, you must read the book. I can only say that this book has made me realize I have a really good life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book with such amazing TRUE stories of kids who are no more than preteens. I was so inspired after reading this that I started my own diary! The movie is also great if you loved the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People think all these kids are trouble But they're not they have a hard life and nobody understands This movie/book lets every body know what they went through READ IT!!!!!!!!!!!!,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have watched the movie plenty of times, so i want to read the book finally.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This movie was so touching. I thought i would hate it, but i was VERY wrong. I didnt leave my seat the entire time. I heard about the book, and plan on reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The movie was great should I read the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have seen the movie and now read the book and both have been really good. It is sad what the children go through but this book helps you see the truth behind these children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite movies and books. A beautiful,heartbreaking and true story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If u do not like the book then u need to see the moive this book is talking about what kids are going thourght now in this generation. people never ask kid why do they act out theres a reason . This techer in this book does not give up on her students she does not judge them because o f there pass are of the color of their skin she stands tall.with pride.with hope. So before any of dare to judge a kid or kids ask them what going in before jumping unto things. And yes i am 16 years old but i know what am talking about.i bet half the people that judge kids just judge the why the look os dress but dont have the guts to ask them whats wrong. Or why are u doing that so untill u ask 1000000 kids whats going in the then u come and say i dony like this book are moive. This why so many young kids are dieing and killing them selfs now because no one ask them whats wrong before they reach the end of there rope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
readerpersonSR More than 1 year ago
I slugged my way to the halfway point, and realized all the kids sound like the same person was writing the letters. All the grammar was cleaned up, the spelling was good. Sorry...I want the original feel of this telling assignment. Its books like this that make me think anyone could write a book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you read the book watch the movie it is not the same connection but it still is grate movie and book Buy it Read it Rate it 5 stars Share it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago