The Freedom Writers Diary

The Freedom Writers Diary

by

Erin Gruwell

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The Freedom Writers Character Analysis

Ms. Gruwell’s 150 students are a diverse group of adolescents. Initially divided along lines of race and ethnicity, the students soon discover that they share similar experiences of discrimination, addiction, gang-related violence, and domestic abuse. They find extraordinary support and guidance in Ms. Gruwell’s teaching, as she inspires them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. During the students’ four years of high school, they become increasingly emotionally close and academically motivated, committing to fight for important social issues such as injustice and discrimination. They adopt the name “Freedom Writers” in homage to the 1960s Freedom Riders activists who fought segregation in the American South. By senior year, they become nationally known as their stories appear in newspaper articles and television shows. After their graduation, a movie is made based on their experiences (Freedom Writers), bringing them international fame. Many of the Freedom Writers become educators and role models in their communities, demonstrating their desire teach their communities what they have learned.

The Freedom Writers Quotes in The Freedom Writers Diary

The The Freedom Writers Diary quotes below are all either spoken by The Freedom Writers or refer to The Freedom Writers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race, Ethnicity, and Tolerance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Broadway Books edition of The Freedom Writers Diary published in 2009.
Part I: Entry 1: Ms. Gruwell Quotes

Celie was violated, tormented, humiliated, degraded; yet through it all, she remained innocent! Out of all this horror, Celie was given courage. Courage to ask for more, to laugh, to love, and finally—to live. Now I’m certain who Celie is. Celie is and always has been me . . . and with this in mind, I will survive.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Part I: Diary 3 Quotes

My P.O. hasn’t realized yet that schools are just like the city and the city is just like prison. All of them are divided into separate sections, depending on race. On the streets, you kick it in different ’hoods, depending on your race, or where you’re from. And at school, we separate ourselves from people who are different from us. That’s just the way it is, and we all respect that. So when the Asians started trying to claim parts of the ’hood, we had to set them straight.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Part I: Diary 5 Quotes

I’m not afraid of anyone anymore. Now I’m my own gang. I protect myself. I got my own back. I still carry my gun with me just in case I run into some trouble, and now I’m not afraid to use it. Running with gangs and carrying a gun can create some problems, but being of a different race can get you into trouble, too, so I figure I might as well be prepared. Lately, a lot of shit’s been going down. All I know is that I'm not gonna be the next one to get killed.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Entry 2: Ms. Gruwell Quotes

I don’t know if I’m more frustrated with the students or the system. Although they’re a pain, they’re just kids. But adults created the system. The system separates them and then they’re stereotyped as “basic,” but in reality, they’re anything but basic. In many ways they’re extraordinary. […] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you tell kids they’re stupid—directly or indirectly—sooner or later they start to believe it.

Related Characters: Erin Gruwell (speaker), The Freedom Writers
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Part II: Diary 15 Quotes

[I]t’s obvious that if you’re from a Latino gang you don’t get along with the Asian gang, and if you’re from the Asian gang, you don’t get along with the Latino gang. All this rivalry is more of a tradition. Who cares about the history behind it? Who cares about any kind of history? It’s just two sides who tripped on each other way back when and to this day make other people suffer because of their problems. Then I realized she was right, it’s exactly like that stupid play. So our reasons might be stupid, but it's still going on, and who am I to try to change things?

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Erin Gruwell
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Part IV: Diary 43 Quotes

“Do not let Anne’s death be in vain,” Miep said, using her words to bring it all together. Miep wanted us to keep Anne’s message alive, it was up to us to remember it. Miep and Ms. Gruwell had had the same purpose all along. They wanted us to seize the moment. Ms. Gruwell wanted us to realize that we could change the way things were, and Miep wanted to take Anne’s message and share it with the world.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Erin Gruwell, Miep Gies
Related Symbols: The Diary of Anne Frank
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Part IV: Diary 47 Quotes

I have always been taught to be proud of being Latina, proud of being Mexican, and I was. I was probably more proud of being a “label” than of being a human being, that’s the way most of us were taught. Since the day we enter this world we were a label, a number, a statistic, that’s just the way it is. Now if you ask me what race I am, like Zlata, I’ll simply say, “I’m a human being.”

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Zlata Filipović
Related Symbols: The Diary of Anne Frank
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Part IV: Diary 48 Quotes

When Zlata wrote about Bosnian children becoming the “soldiers” and the soldiers becoming “children,” at first I didn’t get her meaning. After hearing Tony’s story, I understood. In war the innocence of a child is lost, and though the soldiers fee I theirs is a worthy cause, they behave like children when trying to achieve their goals. Knowing that a grown man entered a child’s bedroom stealing his innocence makes me sad.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Zlata Filipović, Tony
Related Symbols: The Diary of Anne Frank
Page Number: 95-96
Explanation and Analysis:
Part V: Diary 54 Quotes

When I was born, the doctor must have stamped “National Spokesperson for the Plight of Black People” on my forehead; a stamp visible only to my teachers. The majority of my teachers treat me as if I, and I alone, hold the answers to the mysterious creatures that African Americans are, like I’m the Rosetta Stone of black people. It was like that until I transferred to Ms. Gruwell’s class. Up until that point it had always been: “So Joyce, how do black people feel about Affirmative Action?” Poignant looks follow. “Joyce, can you give us the black perspective on The Color Purple?”

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Erin Gruwell
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Part V: Diary 57 Quotes

What she showed me today is that a truly self-reliant person takes action, leaving nothing to chance and everything to themselves. She showed me that excuses will not bring about success and that adversity is not something you walk with, but something you leap over. The only obstacles are the ones you allow.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Erin Gruwell
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Part V: Diary 61 Quotes

I think it’s about time men start respecting women, instead of degrading women to the point where it’s unbearable. I don’t know why women allow men to brainwash them and use their bodies as objects instead of cherishing them as if they were treasures. But it’s never going to change until women start respecting themselves more.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Erin Gruwell
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Part VI: Diary 69 Quotes

Besides gang violence, domestic violence or spousal abuse is common. So common, in fact, that people ignore it, turn the other cheek, or go back to bed. I have watched men pistol-whip their girlfriends or smash their heads through car windows. Damn! I have seen a lot of crazy stuff. Stuff that makes me thankful it’s not me. It’s easier for me to pretend I don’t live where I live or see what I see. […] Writing about my pain will only make it worse.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker), Erin Gruwell
Related Symbols: The Diary of Anne Frank
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
Part VIII: Diary 116 Quotes

I believe that I will never again feel uncomfortable with a person of a different race. When I have my own children someday, the custom I was taught as a child will be broken, because I know it's not right. My children will learn how special it is to bond with another person who looks different but is actually just like them. All these years I knew something was missing in my life, and I am glad that I finally found it.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:
Part VIII: Diary 136 Quotes

“I know why the caged bird sings.” For many people this might sound like a normal poem, but to me it’s an analogy of my life. I sometimes feel as if I am a bird without wings and the door on my cage is not open. A bird doesn’t sing because it’s happy, it sings because it’s not free.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Diary of Anne Frank
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

Although I’m not an expert on the subject, I’ve always felt that all kids yearn to rebel. Understanding this rebellious nature, I encouraged the Freedom Writers to use a pen as a means of revolution. Through their writing, they discovered they shared a common identity, which united them into a community that connected them, not separated them from the world. Unfortunately, the young men in Columbine didn’t share a community like the Freedom Writers. Instead, they were alone and on the fringe. Their cries for help fell on deaf ears. And rather than picking up a pen and finding a solution, they turned to guns and bombs instead.

Related Characters: Erin Gruwell (speaker), The Freedom Writers
Related Symbols: The Diary of Anne Frank
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:
Afterword: Diary 1 Quotes

I have faith in the system. I will continue to fight for change alongside students, teachers, and immigrants. And I will continue to write letters, attend political rallies, volunteer for campaigns, and collect voter registration forms, because that’s how the Freedom Riders enacted change—not just by challenging the system, but by working with it.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:
Afterword: Diary 2 Quotes

I hate going back to that place—the past, that is. I tried very hard to leave it behind me. Sometimes, I speak to adults who don’t know what it’s like; they just like our message. And I do the best I can, but I have to admit, going there hurts. I hate my former, abandoned-fourteen-year-old self, desperately seeking a reassuring hug. But if letting this student know everything is going to be okay means going to that place, it’s worth it.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:
Afterword: Diary 6 Quotes

In that mirror, I see a well-balanced person, someone who is accountable for his actions, has goals, and stands for something. I am someone my foster father is proud of, someone the Freedom Writers family is proud of, someone my spouse is proud of, someone my mother would be proud of, and, most important, someone I am proud of.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:
Afterword: Diary 7 Quotes

So today when the bell rings, I’ll think about the Freedom Writers and I’ll tell my students, “I know class is tough and so is life, but I’m a tough teacher who molds tough students.” Tough times don’t last; tough people do.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:
Afterword: Diary 8 Quotes

As I got older, people who heard my story would ask me how I dealt with the idea of death and dying. I would think about it for a minute and reply, “See, being poor, black, and living in the ghetto was kind of like a disease that I was born with, sort of like AIDS or cancer.” It was nothing I could control.

Related Characters: The Freedom Writers (speaker)
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Freedom Writers Diary LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Freedom Writers Diary PDF

The Freedom Writers Character Timeline in The Freedom Writers Diary

The timeline below shows where the character The Freedom Writers appears in The Freedom Writers Diary. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part VI: Diary 75
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...power of relationships across racial and ethnic lines. After learning about the story of the Freedom Riders , the class decides to call themselves the “Freedom Writers,” using this historic name to... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 76
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Since the students united under the name Freedom Writer s, students have stayed late at school to work on homework. One night, they are... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 77
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...money for the trip to Washington. The concert includes cross-cultural shows, meant to showcase the Freedom Writer s’ diversity and involve the rest of the community. (full context)
Part VI: Diary 78
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At the Freedom Writer s’ concert, one of the students reads a poem he wrote about growing up without... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 79
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...of whom have harrowing life stories to tell. S/he hopes that they can follow the Freedom Riders ’ path and show their passion for tolerance and diversity by going to meet Richard... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 80
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...D.C. Her father is very strict and has forbidden her from taking part in any Freedom Writer s field trips. At home, she is not even allowed to talk to people on... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 82
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...Have a Dream” speech, about racial peace and cooperation. The student looks around at the Freedom Writer s and realizes that they are Martin Luther King’s dream come true. (full context)
Part VI: Diary 83
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...on walls (though never to inspire hatred), decides to cover up the swastika with a Freedom Writer s logo s/he and her/his friend invent. They ask the hotel concierge to make copies... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 87
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...for adults, she is captivated by what Riley has to say when he calls the Freedom Writer s future leaders. She is impressed by his own tales of struggle and is proud... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 91
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After giving a copy of their book to Richard Riley, the Freedom Writer s hold a candlelight vigil for all the victims of violence they knew. Everyone walks... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 93
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...trip and sees commotion, he assumes that the media is there to report on the Freedom Writer s. However, he soon learns that a student at Wilson High, Jeremy Strohmeyer, has been... (full context)
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...only on this terrible event, instead of reporting the much more positive news about the Freedom Writer s’ trip to Washington. He feels that the media stereotypes young people in a narrow... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 95
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When the Freedom Writer s meet on the morning that the news about Jeremy Strohmeyer’s crime breaks, they decide... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 96
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...Class President. She begins to campaign and knows that she can count on her fellow Freedom Writer s’ full support. After long days of campaigning, the results are finally announced and this... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 97
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When the Freedom Writer s are at risk of being separated next year, this student feels that her/his life... (full context)
Part VI: Diary 98
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This student has just learned that the Freedom Writer s are going to stay together for senior year after all, and feels grateful that... (full context)
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The Freedom Writer s’ persistent presence and support has proven stronger than her biological family ties, and she... (full context)
Entry 7: Ms. Gruwell
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...and the president of the Board of Education, Karin Polacheck, to keep on teaching the Freedom Writer s. Dr. Cohn and Ms. Polacheck even accompany the students on their trip to Washington,... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 101
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...the worst period of her/his life. When s/he confides in Ms. Gruwell and her fellow Freedom Writer s, though, they are extremely understanding and make her/him feel better. S/he has decided not... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 103
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...begun to trust that she, too, can become someone important. When she hears all the Freedom Writer s share their dreams for the future, she surprises herself by saying that she wants... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 104
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...has always wanted to be a filmmaker. He feels that, with the support of the Freedom Writer s, he can do anything. (full context)
Part VII: Diary 107
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The Freedom Writer s go to Butler Elementary School to mentor children themselves. Located in one of the... (full context)
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...have to step on a line if they respond affirmatively to a question that the Freedom Writer s have asked. The questions are initially trivial but soon become centered on issues of... (full context)
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By the end of the day, with the Freedom Writer s’ mentorship, the children feel confident enough to assert their dreams and career desires, trusting... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 108
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...and stages of editing. S/he describes an article Nancy Wride, a journalist, wrote about the Freedom Writer s, which she worked hard to make as close to the truth as possible. After... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 109
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...receives a letter from a prisoner in West Virginia who read the article about the Freedom Writer s, however, she becomes emotional and is reminded of the way she was raised. (full context)
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...a phrase from Anne Frank about being trapped in a cage—which was quoted in the Freedom Writer s article—this student is amazed at the power of the media to reach people everywhere. (full context)
Part VII: Diary 110
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...alcohol and drugs, and unable to motivate himself to work. When Ms. Gruwell gives the Freedom Writer s an assignment to interview other students about their family heritage and culture, this student... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 111
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...she did not stand up to this injustice, which she calls a torture. As a Freedom Writer , she feels ashamed to have let this happen. She decides to leave the sorority.... (full context)
Part VII: Diary 113
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...s/he has suddenly become an adult, alone, with no guidance. Despite Ms. Gruwell and the Freedom Writer s’ help, s/he feels unable to share her pain, and does not understand why s/he... (full context)
Entry 8: Ms. Gruwell
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...Ms. Gruwell receives a call from the Anne Frank Center USA telling her that the Freedom Writer s have won the Spirit of Anne Frank Award, honoring people fighting against discrimination and... (full context)
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...that in November, the L.A. Times published the article that had been written about the Freedom Writer s and Ms. Gruwell was overwhelmed by offers for her students to appear on TV... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 114
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...wear the designer clothes that everybody else had. Now that she is part of the Freedom Writer s, material things are no longer central to her life, for she has realized that... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 115
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...s/he soon realized that her/his fears were unwarranted, as s/he soon felt part of the Freedom Writer s’ color-blind family. (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 117
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When the Freedom Writer s receive their award, stepping on stage after rich and powerful people, they are all... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 118
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...decided that s/he will not let him spoil her/his education and her/his experience as a Freedom Writer . S/he commits to putting an end to similar abuse when s/he becomes powerful. (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 120
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This student celebrates the Freedom Writer s’ literary agent Carol for publishing their diaries. Using the term she herself used to... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 121
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This student announces that the Freedom Writer s are getting published. She describes her own dream of being a published writer, a... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 122
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...mentality and did not play well enough. This student understands that this time, too, the Freedom Writer s have to work as a team and not depend on Ms. Gruwell for it... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 123
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While Ms. Gruwell is in New York to meet with the book publisher, the Freedom Writer s are taught by a substitute, and this student suddenly let out her/his anger at... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 124
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...which lowered this student’s self-esteem, she has been able to invest more time in the Freedom Writer s and attend the New York event, in addition to ABC’s Prime Time Live show.... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 125
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...chosen to speak in front of Barbara Boxer, their senator. Ms. Gruwell and all the Freedom Writer s chose her out of the entire group. She recalls the various rebellious acts she... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 129
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When the Freedom Writer s receive the Micah Award, given to people who fight injustice (or, as the award... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 133
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When she tells the Freedom Writer s this good news, everyone is happy for her and congratulates her in a heartfelt... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 134
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While the Freedom Writer s are happily sharing their college acceptances and talking about post-graduation life, this student feels... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 136
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...escape his suffocating environment. Ironically, though, he is afraid of heights and didn’t attend the Freedom Writer s’ past field trips. He hopes to attend their next trip to Texas in the... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 137
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This student feels ecstatic at being the last of the thirty-five Freedom Writer s called to receive a computer. S/he cannot believe that s/he increased her/his grade point... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 139
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...achievements and seem to actually want her/him to fail. Thanks to her/his parents and the Freedom Writer s, though, s/he has always felt that s/he had a family who believe that s/he... (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 141
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...family and made school attendance very difficult. Despite the support of Ms. Gruwell and the Freedom Writer s, he had to be home schooled, while still attending Freedom Writers events. (full context)
Part VIII: Diary 142
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...cannot imagine living and working without each other. This student recalls the trust that the Freedom Writer s gradually put in education, as they learned that a pen could be more powerful... (full context)
Epilogue
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Erin Gruwell recalls that, during the Freedom Writer s’ trip to Washington, someone suggested that their next step should be to visit Anne... (full context)
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...her own, as she leaves high school and begins teaching about her experience with the Freedom Writer s at National University, Long beach, to inspire other educators, while remaining present in the... (full context)
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After hearing about the Columbine High School shooting, the Freedom Writer s feel lucky at having avoided such tragedy in their own lives, but also understand... (full context)
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A few days before their trip to Europe, one of the Freedom Writer s passes away. He suffered from cystic fibrosis all his life and died after his... (full context)
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...reader to join the chain of literary inspiration that links Anne Frank, Zlata Filipović, the Freedom Writer s and, finally, the readers themselves. (full context)
Afterword
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Erin Gruwell describes what has happened to the Freedom Writer s since graduation. She explains that, at the end of senior year, she knew that... (full context)
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Ms. Gruwell explains that the Freedom Writer s’ trip to Europe—and, in particular, to places associated with heinous violence such as Auschwitz—strengthened... (full context)
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While the Freedom Writer s were invited to give nerve-racking speeches to large audiences, Erin taught education at National... (full context)
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In 2000, the Freedom Writer s became the subject of a large motion-picture. The Freedom Writers became actively involved in... (full context)
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Erin concludes that the Freedom Writer s’ goal remains to make sure that everyone can tell their own story and be... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 1
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When the Freedom Writer s are invited to speak to members of Congress as part of their book tour,... (full context)
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...her ID and she is able to meet Congressman John Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders . She experiences this as a great honor and wishes the rest of the Freedom... (full context)
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...disappointment at not being able to attend college. She explains that Ms. Gruwell and the Freedom Writer s saw beyond her legal status, blindly accepting her into their large family. (full context)
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...trusts in the system, and that she will keep on fighting from within, because the Freedom Writer s work within the system as well as challenge it. (full context)
Afterword: Diary 2
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This Freedom Writer recalls a humiliating moment in his childhood when his teacher forced him to take his... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 3
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This Freedom Writer describes leaving college in Boston after a year. After being considered smart all her life,... (full context)
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...to Long Beach in the summer, defeated. She refused to see her friends, even the Freedom Writer s, and left college without telling her best friend there. She has only recently begun... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 4
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This Freedom Writer recalls being five months pregnant when she graduated from high school. While she had made... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 5
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This Freedom Writer describes visiting Wilson High School after many years. She is part of the jury of... (full context)
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When the two Freedom Writer s shut the classroom door, they walk to the meeting to decide who will receive... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 6
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This Freedom Writer describes the importance that family has played in his life, and his struggles as an... (full context)
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...with certain issues, Ms. Gruwell asks if all suspected abuse should be reported, and this Freedom Writer surprises himself and everybody else by being the only person in the room to disagree.... (full context)
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...the comfort that Ms. Gruwell and the other students give him. He realizes that the Freedom Writer s group was crucial in raising him and turning him into the person he has... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 7
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This Freedom Writer describes his nervousness at having to teach on the first day of school. The last... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 8
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...condemned to end up like the friends he had buried over the years. When the Freedom Writer s go to see the movie about them, he is proud to see their crowds... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 9
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This Freedom Writer describes being used to telling her story to various audiences, but that telling it in... (full context)
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When the documentary director asks her how her life was before the Freedom Writer s, she is transported to her twelve-year-old self, when she lived in a camper by... (full context)
Afterword: Diary 10
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This Freedom Writer describes waking up at five in the morning being amazed at seeing himself, his wife,... (full context)
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This Freedom Writer promises to be there at every step of his son’s life, making sure to do... (full context)