Freedom Writers

This is an amazing book and movie based on the true story of Erin Gruwell and the difference she made in this world being a normal person, no fame, no money and no support. Truly a must read book and a must watch movie.

Synopsis :

When Gruwell was a first-year high school teacher in an inner city school in Long Beach, CA, teaching the “unteachables” (kids that no other teacher wanted to deal with), she discovered that most of her students had not heard of the Holocaust. Shocked, she introduced them to books about tolerance. A first-person accounts by the likes of Anne Frank and Zlata Filopvic, who chronicled her life in war-torn Sarajevo. The students were inspired to start keeping diaries of their lives that showed the violence, homelessness, racism, illness, and abuse that surrounded them. These student diaries form the basis of this book. Most readers will be proud to see how these students have succeeded; at the end of their four-year experience, the Freedom Writers as they called themselves, in honor of the Freedom Riders of the 1960s had all graduated; Gruwell now works at the college level, instructing teachers on how to provide more interactive classes for their students.

It was made into a movie last year. I was very skeptical to watch this movie, because usually movies made from books lose its charm and its effect. It loses the impact it makes during the translation. I also kept away from watching this movie because I thought it was another of those movies where a white idealist liberates her non-white students. Thankfully,I was so wrong. This movie is so far beyond all the stereotypes. It beautifully tells the story of how a teacher must be and how big a difference a good one can make. It narrates and shows raw, impacting stories of racism, abuse, gangs and self worth. One of the few movies that was made well , without losing the essence of the book (another recent such project was Fast Food Nation).

The movie features the diary accounts of several teenagers following the L.A. riots, and their teacher’s attempts to make a difference in the lives of her at-risk students. Located in gang-ravaged Long Beach, California, Woodrow Wilson High is a hotbed of violence due to a voluntary integration program which brings Black, Latino, Asian, Cambodian and White students together. Rather than having the desired effect of creating healthy diversity, this program breeds constant war between all parties involved, the result being daily gun shots, constant racial slurs, and gang violence.

Hilary Swank plays the lead role of Erin Gruwell. She is just about alright, a bit flat and monotonous. The casting of the teenagers in her class was flawless. All the kids are phenomenal and perfectly portray the troubled kids with a very sad personal life.

The movie is a bit documentary-ish, extremely dialog oriented and mentally exhausting, but totally worth it. Just a disclaimer.

I rate this movie a 9 out of 10. The book gets a perfect 10 out of 10.

Here’s a link to Erin Gruwell’s foundation and this is her. This is the book.

Fast Food Nation

I loved this book and the movie. The movie especially is interesting because of its fiction type movie making rather than being yet another documentary on fast food.  “Super size me” also a fast food awareness movie,  a documentary,  did not do much for me , because of its one sided, biased mantra – Fast food will kill you. I think we all know its unhealthy, so the whole movie seemed repetitive and irrelevant . It was a noble cause for sure. Kudos to Morgan Spurlock for that but two hours of it got to me.

This movie on the other hand talks about our various fast food chains, their extremely ineffective, inhumane and unhealthy meat handling practices to their ‘temporary workforce’ (aka Illegal immigrants) and its implications on our culture today. It has a cartload of talented actors all playing one-two line parts almost as if they just wanted to be part of this movie no matter what. An absolutely eye opening, life changing, well crafted and executed, sad truth every human being must know. Go Watch it or Read it. Watch it…..preferably.

I rate this movie 9 out of 10.

God is not Great

I  recently heard about this book authored by Christopher Hitchens. The premise of the book as I understand so far is , he says the most overrated virtue in life is faith. He also firmly believes and writes that religion poisons everything. He says it is the root cause for racism, class system, superstitions and most importantly it promotes and instills fear of death.

Oh, how my hands are itching to get a copy! Of course you will read the review of this book right here, after I read it.

Disclaimer:  Im not an atheist. Neither am I  a religious person. I merely go about my daily life doing my best to be happy, try to make the people around me happy and put as much effort as I can to be useful to this world. I beleive in finding more of my inner spirit and being 100% comfortable being me.  People say that makes me a spiritual person, I’m okay with that!

I like reading about this whole topic of ‘existence of a superpower’ Vs. ‘Not’  and ‘God’ Vs. ‘Science’ just to see what people have to say and what the argument on both sides are.  I will never pick a side !

This is the book and this is the author.

The Practice and Philosophy of Decision Making: A Seven Step Spiritual Guide

In the words of the author, Neeraja Raman: 

“In this book, I describe an action oriented decision framework, enhanced by philosophical concepts of discipline (yoga) and the pursuit of knowledge (gnyana), uniquely integrating the softer skills of human psychology and philosophy with traditional hard skills such as planning and action” 

This book was gifted to me recently. It got me intrigued because of its cover of the Bhagavad-Gita and falls under the genre of Decision making& Management. I was curious about what possibly the author had to say to link modern day management& decision making to Bhagavad-Gita. I am not a particularly religious person and hence was skeptical going into this book but was pleasantly surprised that this book was NOT a translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. Have you never read or even tried to read the Bhagavad-Gita because it’s too profound, impractical to today’s life or just because you’re not religious? This book is made applicable and practical to everyday life and will appeal to everyone even if not spiritual or religious.  

I am in awe of this author who has so beautifully written this book explaining and drawing a parallel from Mahabharata as applied to our generation today. She asks and researches the ultimate questions in life like Who am I? What am I? Do we need a philosophical approach to decision making? She talks about Dharma, Yoga and Gnyana in very simple modern ways. Dharma being the concept of guidance through personal values and principles, Yoga the concept of discipline and Gnyana the concept of harmony, peace, self fulfillment and happiness through knowledge.  

She writes many wonderful stories on happiness, knowledge and self empowerment. She researches and talks about setting goals, overcoming self defeating behavior and thinking, integrating the concepts of dharma, yoga and gnyana. She has a whole section for Practical realists like me talking about the million dollar questions like Reason Vs Emotion, Decisions Vs Strategy, Excellence Vs Perfection and much more.   It is nearly impossible for me to put into words what I learned from this very sensible, smart, thought provoking, power packed and practical 90 page book.  Go get a copy and enjoy!

This is Neeraja Raman and her book.

The Secret

This is the recent phenomenon in the book world: “The Secret” authored by Rhonda Byrne who personally had her life collapse around her and discovered “The secret” and came to realize that this was the key to her life. It is co authored by seven other people from motivational speakers to Philosophers to Physicians to Chiropractors to Business guru’s and Psychologists. 

What is “The Secret”? It is The Law of Attraction.  Meaning, everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life simply by your thoughts and actions. You’re current thoughts are creating your future life. What you think and focus on MOST will appear as your life. Simple examples given in the book: Health, Careers, Relationships and Money 

Any of these thoughts sound familiar?  “Oh my god I should NOT become fat, Holidays are around the corner, I’m going to eat and lose the battle of weight management, and I’m going to gain back everything I lost in the year just during this one holiday season”  I’m sure it does !!  Now, even though these thoughts at the end of the day MIGHT sound like positive thinking: meaning – you trying to control your weight and thinking about how to NOT gain it, try reading inside of it more. The Key of your thoughts are NOT, NOT and WEIGHT, FAT, GAIN BACK WEIGHT. Hence wrong thinking. You are thinking of weight all the time and subconsciously beating yourself up over it sadly without much result.  Solution? : Positive thoughts/ images and Action. In this case that would mean: Simply think “I am going to be healthy and reach my goal” and absolutely etch an image of how you want to at your goal in your head and simply forget about it. Now once the positive thought is made, its time for action from your side to make the thought come true.  Same with money. Wrong thoughts: “I should NOT get into DEBT, I have to make sure I never get into DEBT. I am going to do everything I can to avoid DEBT, oh my god, I have SO MUCH DEBT how am I going to get out of it” Key words: DEBT, NOT, SO MUCH DEBT. What you’re attracting to your life in this case? Yes, DEBT. Solution? : Positive thoughts/images and action.  Same goes for every other aspect of your life. Now this may appear simple, redundant and sometimes even silly, I leave that up to you to decide. 

Ok now you know what this book is about, here are my thoughts: 

Positive:

Definitely brings an awareness of positive thinking and optimism to people. And believe me as adults we really need it! We need to learn how to use less of NOT and CANNOT and stop obsessing about what we need to do 24/7 or lose sleep over it but just act on it !

Does not talk anything controversial like religion, god etc. It simply refers to that as “the universe”. It says things like “if you think positively, the universe will give you all the things that you thought about and acted upon” hence making it more appealing to everyone irrespective of religion, belief or ethnicity.

I  like that they talk about action, unlike many other motivational and philosophical books out there. This does not propagate just sitting at home thinking and picturing a million dollars or a 100 pound body and believing in your god and think it’s going to happen. It teaches very sensibly that you have to get off your ass and move towards what you think and want! 

Negative: 

 The challenge we have as human beings  is , it is absolutely impossible to have positive thoughts all the time. Atleast ONCE in this process you might consciously or subconsciously have a thought naturally towards the negative. How do you gain control of your thoughts? Won’t we be superhuman if we can think positively 100% of the time and are actually able to get our mind to listen to us?? 

The other scary part for me is not only do our conscious thoughts affect us, but our subconscious thoughts affect us as well. How on earth do I control my subconscious thoughts when I have an extremely hard time controlling the conscious ones I make! 

The BIGGEST turn off for me after reading this book is that it goes behind and talks about ONLY the material things in life like money, a great body, career, cars, houses etc. Not a WORD about satisfaction at work, Gratitude in life, fulfillment or simply Happiness. You cannot buy or get all this simply by following a process now can you? 

But I guess they have to talk about the material things in life like “you can have anything you want, a million dollars or a perfect body and health, a maserati or billion dollar mansion” to sell more books. At the end of the day this book being published is a business. Not for charity. Even Rhonda Byrne has to make money and sell a million books and make it to the New York Times bestseller, coz maybe that’s her goal/thought and this book written this way is her action!!!   This materialism and capitalism is NOT acceptable by me. 

I’m sure if the key line was “you can have anything you want, Happiness, good health, satisfaction, gratitude or even kindness” this book would be classified under a completely different category at would’ve ended up being yet another motivational and inspirational book like the million other that already exist.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.