Nuestra Familia - A Broken Paradigm


Stark in its portrayal, but more riveting and embroiling than brutal or repellent.

First-time writer Mendoza tells the story of his rise through the ranks and his ultimate escape from a powerful criminal organization.

The character John “Boxer” Mendoza turns to drugs and crime at an early age, so it’s perhaps inevitable that the violent robberies he commits land him in jail. There, he becomes a member of the gang Nuestra Raza, an extension of Nuestra Familia. Mendoza is in and out of prison for drugs and parole violations, until the day when the three-striker faces a long stretch, and his loyalty to NF is suddenly in question. The book concentrates on Mendoza’s time in NF, although in the foreword, Mendoza explains that he doesn’t want to glamorize the gang life. Instead, he reveals an unvarnished world where violence reigns. The narrative is sometimes cold, merely relaying the events that lead to the next incarceration, and it’s hard not to view Mendoza as apathetic. But he shows his emotion in response to NF’s malicious treatment of certain members, leaving some of them to fend for themselves, and he regrets disappointing his ailing wife, Vicki, especially when he’s in jail and she’s left alone. The author clearly knows how to tell a story: He opens the narrative with the police raiding his house and dragging him outside; he discusses the disconcerting Operation Black Widow; and he’s prone to metaphors. There’s even an antagonist: Lencho, his “antithesis,” who is Mendoza’s greatest adversary during his longest (in terms of the narrative) stint in prison. Surprisingly, the book’s highlights are Mendoza-free: The novel reveals the fascinating origin of the Mexican Mafia, as well as the NF’s response to the Aryan Brotherhood, a certain attention-grabber.

Stark in its portrayal, but more riveting and embroiling than brutal or repellent.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478222804

Page Count: 508

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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