More than twenty years ago, millions of readers were introduced to the Freedom Writers and teacher Erin Gruwell. Their stories, featured in the #1 New York Times bestseller The Freedom Writers Diary, captured the hearts of readers everywhere and later became a major motion picture, Freedom Writers. What began in Room 203 in 1994 with a first-time teacher and 150 “unteachable” high-schoolers, would go on to build a lifelong community of students and educators working together, driven by the purpose of innovative learning.
In Dear Freedom Writer: Stories of Hardship and Hope from the Next Generation, set to be published by Penguin Random House on March 29, 2022, their legacy continues as readers are introduced to a new league of Freedom Writers—fifty students from around the globe—sharing deeply personal and powerful stories in letters addressed to the original Freedom Writers and dedicated Freedom Writer Teachers.
Original Freedom Writers and Freedom Writer Teachers answer each letter with a message of compassion, understanding, and profound advice as someone of similar plight, but who has come out on the other side. For the reader, the result is an intensely poignant experience of witnessing these young authors bare their truths to a mentor, friend, liberator, and in some ways, their future selves.
Did you know?
You may be surprised to learn that Gruwell, the Freedom Writers, the Freedom Writer Teachers, and the students began and completed writing this book at the height of the pandemic. As the world shut down, students were some of the most impacted among us, with increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
The Freedom Writers realized that now more than ever, the need for community and emotional release would be too great to ignore. So, how do writers from around the world co-author a book in the middle of a global health emergency, economic crisis, and civil unrest? Simple… by any means necessary. From students across the United States, to war-torn regions of the Middle East, and to young Kurdish refugees in Germany, our global Freedom Writer Teachers and virtual tools allowed the Freedom Writers to reach across borders to engage in an unforgettable learning experience and bring this book to life.
Bringing together different voices
In these fifty letters and their corresponding replies, the Freedom Writers and Freedom Writer Teachers address issues that span generations and still impact young people today, such as struggles with abuse, racism, discrimination, poverty, incarceration, teen parenthood, mental health, self-harm, imposed borders, LGBTQIA+ identity, and police violence. Dear Freedom Writer brings together different voices to share experiences of grief, pain, triumph, healing, and solidarity, with each story so bravely written that it demands the reader’s attention.
In honour of World Storytelling Day this Sunday, March 20, read an excerpt of the Dear Freedom Writer: Stories of Hardship and Hope from the Next Generation. “Letter 8—Buck Stops Here: Cost of the American Dream” is an incredible piece on poverty and progress.
Bring World Storytelling Day into your classroom
Join the official World Storytelling Day on Facebook to see what is happening this week and if there is a storytelling event near you.
Every year there is a theme to World Storytelling Day. This year’s theme is “Lost and Found” which could be tied into the reading and discussion of excerpt from Dear Freedom Writer and with connections to financial literacy activities in the Health and Wellbeing IMYC Big Idea unit of Responsibility.
Check out professional storyteller Rudolf Roos and his International Storyteller website for more ideas and activities on how to incorporate storytelling into your school.
Visit the Freedom Writers Foundation and listen to their podcast series which tells compelling stories through interviews with educators, activists, and social justice advocates making an impact in their communities.