I read The Freedom Writers Diary last fall. In light of the current controversy about the book, I'm cross-posting the review I posted on my book blog in October.
Published in 1999. 292 pages.
I had heard good things about and planned to view the movie version of this book before I even knew that it was based on a book. It was when I discovered (through BookGal) the Book to Movie Challenge (hosted by Callista) that I learned about the book - and I definitely wanted to read the book and view the film for the challenge.
I am so glad I read this book! A compilation of anonymous diary entries, the book describes the successes newbie teacher Erin Gruwell had with a group of 150 students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, following the Los Angeles riots of 1992. More than anything, I think the book is a testament to the power of words - both those read, such as when Gruwell's students read The Diary of Anne Frank, and those written, as these young people's lives were changed through the keeping of diaries, by being able to tell their stories.
I liked the movie too. I generally enjoy Hilary Swank - Iron Jawed Angels is an all-time favorite - and I loved being given some names and faces for the "freedom writers." I wish the movie had told more of the story - it ended after the student's sophomore year - and a subplot about Gruwell's husband was completely unnecessary (and was not part of the book). (By the way, Patrick Dempsey played the husband, and he also played a love interest for Swank's character in Iron Jawed Angels, a superfluous subplot, not based on the historical account of Alice Paul's life.) But I still was moved by the film, a tribute to the ability of one teacher to change the lives of a group of children.
I plan to read Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers next year for the "In Their Shoes" Challenge.
You might be interested to know that BookGal did not like either the book or the movie, and you can read her thoughts here.