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.
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.
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.
World Storytelling Day logo by Mats Rehnman
Erin Gruwell is the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation
By fostering an educational philosophy that values and promotes diversity, Erin transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches educators around the world how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms.