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ALWAYS RUNNING by Luis J. Rodriguez

ALWAYS RUNNING

La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.

By Luis J. Rodriguez

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-880684-06-3
Publisher: Curbstone Press

 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.