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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Symbols & Motifs


Sharaud, the worst student in Ms. Gruwell’s student teacher class, is Ms. Gruwell’s first success story and the inspiration for her changed teaching approach. On more than one occasion, Ms. Gruwell says, “if Sharaud could change, then anyone can” (5). He stands in for all of Ms. Gruwell’s current students, who are also changed by the end of the book. 

The Distinguished Scholars

The Distinguished Scholars is the English class for Wilson High School’s high-achieving students, who are mostly white, and it is located across the hall from Ms. Gruwell’s class of “at-risk” students, who are almost entirely African American, Latino, and Asian. At the beginning of the book, some of the students in Ms. Gruwell’s class wish they could go across the hall to join the Distinguished Scholars. But by the end of their freshman year, students want to transfer out of Distinguished Scholars and join Ms. Gruwell’s class. One transfer student writes that the Distinguished Scholars teachers “have their noses in the air, as if they were above the rest of the school” (58).

As a motif, the Distinguished Scholars class underscores two of the book’s main themes: racial identity and tolerance and

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