77 pages • 2 hours readErin Gruwell and Freedom Writers
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Zlata Filipovic is a teenager who lived in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. She began keeping a diary before the war to record her childhood, but during the war, writing became more than fun. She writes, “When the Bosnian war started with all its horrors and disrupted my happy and carefree childhood, my diary became more than a place to record daily events. It became a friend, the paper that it was made of was ready and willing to accept anything and everything I had to say; it could handle my fear, my questions, my sadness” (xiv). Her war diary, written in 1992 and 1993, was later published as Zlata’s Diary: a Child’s Life in Sarajevo, and she became an international speaker on issues of tolerance.
In the Foreword, Zlata provides context for how The Freedom Writers Diary began. When Erin Gruwell’s Wilson High School students read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s book they were inspired to write their own diaries. Entries from these diaries make up the book that will follow. The Freedom Writers also invited Zlata to visit their school, a memory she recalls fondly.
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Zlata says that the Freedom Writers’ experiences could have made them feel like victims, but they have chosen instead to “deal with injustice humanely” (xiv).