77 pages 2 hours read

The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1999

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Important Quotes

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“I had lunch before class in the high school quad and noticed that, like everywhere else, it was really separated by race. Each race has its own section and nobody mixes. Everyone, including me, eats lunch with their own kind, and that’s that” 

(Diary 2, Freshman Year, Page 8)

Race organizes the students’ lives, both in and out of school. It would be unacceptable for a student of one race to eat lunch with a student of another race, just as an Asian student would never join a Latino gang. Race is the basis for all of the student’s interactions, and they feel powerless to change the situation. 

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"I really don’t know how I made it through the rest of the school day; hell, I don’t even know how I made it to my next class. I couldn’t see straight, couldn’t walk straight. All I know is that after the fight today, the shit’s really gonna hit the fan on the streets of Long Beach” 

(Diary 4, Freshman Year, Pages 11-12)

This student was not originally part of the fight he references, but he was pulled into it when someone swung at him, and he felt like he had to swing back. He believes he can’t avoid the fight, because he is Mexican, and Mexicans were involved. Like many of Ms. Gruwell’s students, he finds it difficult to focus on school when his day is filled with violence. 

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“It’s so damn easy to get a gun; it’s like getting bubble gum from the corner liquor store. All you need is $25” 

(Diary 5, Freshman Year, Page 12)

Weapons are a regular part of the students’ lives. Even students who are not in gangs feel that they need weapons to protect themselves from racial violence. The consequences of getting caught with a gun seem minor in the face of the very real threats of assault.