ALWAYS RUNNING

LA VIDA LOCA: GANG DAYS IN L.A.

Angry autobiography of a Mexican-American who survived the gang wars of the late 60's and early 70's. (Excerpts text have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, TriQuarterly, etc.) Nowadays, Rodriguez is a poet, editor, and publisher, but during his teenage years, he was a full-fledged participant in la vida loca (``the crazy life''), the barrio gang experience. He writes this memoir to awaken his son Ramiro to the dangers of the clicas before it's too late. For Rodriguez, childhood was a time of poverty and despair, in which his family's journey from Mexico to America brought memories that ``stay with me like a foul odor.'' His father, ``an unfeeling, unmoved intellectual,'' and his mother, ``full of fire,'' offered some stability—but not enough. School added nothing but incompetent teachers and violent playmates. By age 13, Rodriguez was tattooed, deep into drugs and sex, experienced in gang warfare. His life spiraled downward into a hell of armed robbery, paint-sniffing, heroin-shooting, attempted suicide. He bounced in and out of jail, fighting police who ``in the barrio...are just another gang.'' He took up boxing: ``I came to kill. I rushed up to my opponents and mowed them down.'' Then Rodriguez—by now enrolled in a new high school—discovered student activism. He became a student journalist, president of the Chicano Club, a spokesman for the Mexican-American student community. He began to write, won a literary contest, attended Cal State, and turned his life around. Looking ahead, Rodriguez sees a ``more severe and uncertain path'' for his son and other Latinos. Here, his ever-present political analysis, in which authorities exercise ``a genocidal level of destruction'' against ``expendable'' youth, may be too fueled by bitterness to persuade entirely, but his fiery portrait of youth caught in a dead-end system lingers in memory. A song of the streets, fortissimo.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-880684-06-3

Page Count: 247

Publisher: Curbstone Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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