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.
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.