The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank was a beacon of light for the Freedom Writers. She gave my troubled teens hope, and persuaded them to put down a gun, and pick up a pen. Words, not weapons, would help them leave a legacy. Anne’s belief in humanity—with her claim that—“in spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart” is an inspiring, call to action to fight intolerance and injustice. In her honor, the Freedom Writers now live a life of service, and after receiving the prestigious “Spirit of Anne Frank” award, they have followed in her footsteps to become authors and agents for change.
Dubbed as the “modern day Anne Frank,” Zlata Filipovic describes the bombs and bullets in her hometown of Sarajevo during the Bosnian genocide. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata’s story, my students wrote letters to Zlata and invited her to visit us in Long Beach, California. The friendship they forged has lasted decades, and Zlata was able to reciprocate our hospitality by hosting the Freedom Writers and me on our trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Zlata not only wrote the Forward to “The Freedom Writers Diary” but she taught us to be catalysts for change.
The Other Wes Moore
This moving memoir is about two young men, both named Wes Moore, from the same tough streets of Baltimore, but whose lives took very different turns. Wes Moore’s journey is a love letter to education, to caring adults and the power of resilience. He highlights the role that education played in his life and how it sent him on his path towards success. The Freedom Writers see themselves in his heroic journey of self-discovery and reinvention, while still paying homage to where he came from and who he is.
I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had
As a 10th grade English teacher at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Tony writes about what motivates a person to teach, the kinds of challenges teachers face, and those magical moments in the classroom that make it all worthwhile. As a teacher, I felt like Tony was speaking directly to me, describing to me about my noble profession. He is candid and clever, tender and triumphant.
A Common Struggle
Patrick J. Kennedy
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy tells the stirring story of his personal and political struggle with mental illness and addiction, and his mission for mental health parity. Patrick Kennedy’s courage opening up about his struggles with addiction is awe-inspiring and enhances your understanding of the toll addiction takes.
March: Book One (Oversized Edition)
John Lewis, as an original 1960’s Freedom Rider and now Congressman, tells his story of how the “boy from Troy,” Alabama became a Civil Rights activist under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Freedom Writers chose their name in homage of John Lewis’s courage and conviction to fight the good fight. In this graphic novel trilogy, we learn about an American icon who is fiercely committed to justice and nonviolence.
The Freedom Writers Diary (20th Anniversary Edition)
The Freedom Writers
The twentieth anniversary edition of the classic story of an incredible group of students and the teacher who inspired them, featuring updates on the students’ lives, new journal entries, and an introduction by me, Erin Gruwell. It’s now a PBS documentary: Freedom Writers: Stories from the Heart.
As an English teacher, an author, and the host of the Freedom Writers Podcast, I carefully selected the below books that have played a pivotal part in the Freedom Writers journey. Some of the books speak directly to a struggling student, or a talented teacher, or the advocate and activist in us all. As our story has evolved, so have the storytellers who speak to us about courage and conviction, the power to stand up and speak up, and the importance of giving a voice to the voiceless. In the past two decades, we have had the honor to bring each of these books to life—be it visiting Anne Frank’s attic in Amsterdam, or Zlata Filipovic in Bosnia, or paying homage to Freedom Riders like John Lewis, or being inspired by Congressman Patrick Kennedy as we walked the halls of Congress. Each of these authors and advocates have shared their story with me on our podcast, and made their written words more meaningful and moving.
Featured image: The Freedom Writers Foundation