The Monday Book: THE FREEDOM WRITERS DIARY edited by Erin Gruwell

This floated into the bookstore and I grabbed it to take to Chile; Jack and I like to take books we’ll both read to keep down weight, and swap during our travels.

The book is entries from students keeping journals for a school project, and it has that overtone of worthiness one remembers from previous books like it: Dangerous Minds, et al. But it’s also got some lovely moments; in the background of student entries shines their erudite observations of how the project was allowed to flourish despite bureaucracy and the jealous nature of any professionals being outstripped by a colleague. Some of the entries are as simple as “crap, I wish I’d made the basketball team” and others are about students realizing they’re not the only ones with abusive fathers–which they learn from reading each others’ entries, editing them for the book.

If you teach writing, if you like to write, if you teach high school at all, you’ll see all sorts of evidence of the careful editing process of peer and professional review, which made the book even more interesting to me. Gruwell has been very careful to both keep her project in close view of very senior officials, and keep it as organic as possible for the students–a process that is about as hard as squeezing cheese curd from rocks, and for which I salute her big time.

And I flat loved reading the entries, so carefully stitched together to actually make a narrative arc out of something that could have been very piecemeal. It isn’t a story story, but it’s got a story running through it. I enjoyed this approach tremendously.

Well done, Freedom Writers!

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