Freedom Writers Diary by Zlata Filipovic w/ Erin Gruwell (Banned Books Week)

Twenty three year old Erin Gruwell was a new teacher in Long Beach, California.  Erin was filled with energy and ideas and was not deterred when she was given the students referred to as the “unteachables”.  Going optimistically head long into the class it did not take Erin long to see the invisible lines drawn between race, color, and social status.

When a picture is passed through the room making fun of a student, Erin brings up how hateful things like this start wars.  Mentioning the Holocaust she is shocked to find that most of the students in her room had never heard of this.  Using her own money, as the school would not provide books for such social outcasts, Erin teaches the students through reads like Anne Frank, and slowly builds the trust not only in her, but in each other.

I always try to read a book before I watch a movie although, such as in this case, it does not happen that way.  When I seen this movie years ago I did not even know it was a book.  The movie was phenomenal and even as I write this review and I think of this powerful story it brings tears to my eyes.

I had purchased the books years back after realizing it was a book and as many of my books do… it sat on the shelf until recently.  Reading this book, was  just as wonderful as the movie.

I can not stand hate.  It is a dirty four letter word.  I can not handle families torn apart and people judging each other for anything.  Having lost all of my immediate family members to tragedies, it breaks my heart to see families choose not to speak to one another over whatever differences they feel they have.

What I wouldn’t give to have one more conversation with my mom.  My dad.  My sister.

I am getting off course, but this book brings out a lot of emotion as I felt again within the pages, the hate, the labels, the teachers who looked at these students as a waste of their time and the schools money.  What Erin does costs her much, but the outcome…. is priceless.  Within this true story you will find the power and passion of one person, who erased the invisible hate lines by daring to cross them and showing love to students that were starving for it.

An amazing and powerful read that if you have not read – I highly recommend you do.  And this week, if you can make the time, I challenge you to rent this movie.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Amazon Rating

Why was The Freedom’ Writers Diary Banned?

On March 11, 2008, an English teacher at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, Connie Heerman, was suspended for a year and a half without pay for using the Freedom Writers Diary in her classroom against the wishes of the school board.[ Administrators objected to racial slurs and sexual content in portions of the book. Heerman had received permission the previous year to attend a workshop based on the books and obtained permission slips from the parents involved. The school board contends that Heermen did not properly follow the rules to receive permission to use the book. Erin Gruwell commented on the controversy, saying, “The best way to get a teenager to read a book is to ban it. When someone who is a daunting authority figure says, ‘Give us your book’, I think these students [thought], ‘There must be something powerful in these words’.

*FYI.  The Diary of Anne Frank is also a banned book.

(1982) Challenged in Wise County, Virginia due to protests of several parents who complained the book contains sexually offensive passages. (1983) Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this title because it is a “real downer.” (1998) Removed for two months from the Baker Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas after two parents charged that the book was pornographic. The book was returned after students waged a letter-writing campaign to keep it, and the review committee recommended the book’s retention.

42 thoughts on “Freedom Writers Diary by Zlata Filipovic w/ Erin Gruwell (Banned Books Week)

  1. I have neither watched this nor read it as I worried it might be too campy, too heartwarming, to take seriously. More Dangerous Minds than Dead Poets’ Society. After reading this, I’m wondering if I was mistaken.

    1. Having loved both Dangerous Minds (which I can see where you would make the comparison – I had not thought of that) and Dead Poets society (another I must watch again soon!), I guess I found this one more powerful than Dangerous Minds. I really like the whole Holocaust connections she makes with these students and how she (Erin) actually raises money by getting a second job to take them on a tour of the Holocaust museum.

      If you do watch the movie Trisha let me know what you think! 😀

    1. Hannah while the movie touches on a bit of the diary entries, the book is almost entirely diary entries from the actual students. The book and the movie actually compliment each other nicely.

  2. I read this book years ago and then saw the movie. I enjoyed both very much. There is another book that is similar (young teacher takes on the tough kids, etc) called My Posse Don’t Do Homework by Louanne Johnson, which is also good.

  3. I’m so surprised I haven’t heard of this, the movie or the book, or even of the teacher’s suspension. Definitely one to look up (so it seems I’m just like teenagers–you tell me a book has been banned and I’m more likely to investigate!) Thanks for pointing this one out.

    1. Caroline I hope you find the book and give the movie a try as well. Now that I have read both, the movie does a nice job of giving the background story and the book gives more insight on the students diary entries.

  4. I think those people are nuts. Pornographic? really? I have read The Diary of Anne Frank many a time. I own the book. A couple of them actually. It’s a real page turner. A downer? It was during the holocaust! Good grief!

    1. Elisha, I laughed (literally) out loud at your “A downer? It was during the holocaust! Good grief!” 😀

      SO true…. plus in this case both books The Diary Of Anne Frank and The Freedom Writer’s Diary both have the word DIARY in the title. A diary is usually where you put your thoughts and your life moments…. all secure and safe. The word diary itself, “the writer may detail more personal information and normally intended to remain private or to have a limited circulation amongst friends or relatives. The writer may also describe recent events in his/her personal diary.”

      Right there in the definition it says that it is usually stuff of a more personal nature. These students much like Anne Frank had things going on that were scary and they had every right to put them as they felt them or seen them in their diaries.

  5. I saw the movie, and I thought it was powerful. One of the things I liked most was watching Erin gradually learn to see the world through her students’ eyes. I think you have to grasp a person’s perspective before you can teach him.

    Can you imagine a teen who’s never hard of the Holocaust? Or a school district that won’t purchase books for an English class? Mind boggling.

    1. Right! Great thoughts. I agree! I love the scene where they all stand on the line and she asks them to step back when they haven’t experienced the things she lists…. 😀

  6. What a beautiful review! Your post brought tears to my eyes. I can not stand people fighting within families either. I have not heard of this book (how sad of me), but I really want to read it now.

  7. I saw the movie when it came out in Norway a few years ago, and thought it was really good. Couldn’t help but compare it to Dangerous Minds though, which I loved way back when (must see it again, it’s been too long). I had heard about this book, but I haven’t read it. Maybe I should check if my library has it.

  8. I was an only child, and I have no children. All of my family is gone now so my husband’s large family is my family. I didn’t realize you had lost your family tragically, and despite that you are the most cheerful, lively person I know. I’ve always admired your energy; now I also admire your spirit and attitude.

    1. Thank you Barbara. You make me smile. 🙂

      I lost my dad and sister to a house fire in 1980. My mom and I were able to get out of the house in time.

      I lost my mom and my step dad in 1996 when a car crossed into their lane and hit them head on.

      I am sure somewhere in there explains my love of books and reading about other people and other worlds… I know how fragile life can be so I try to make each day count.

  9. I’m curious to read your review for Room. I will not post my review until later this week (after we discuss the book for the MMBC). Having read three books on abduction almost back to back, it’s interesting to have read three different views (all from the one abducted). None of the books were graphic which helped. I think I’m done with this topic for a while!

    I’m off to read your review for Room, then to read the Mr Linky’s for the week!

    Have a wonderful week – if you have time, stop by at see the photo of our new addtiion to the family :).

  10. well, you’ve just inspired me to move Freedom Writer’s the movie to the top of my Netflix queue. I’m sure I’ll be sending for the book at the library soon after. My sister had recommended the movie a while back but our library didn’t have it.

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