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Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. Paperback – October 4, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 317 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the preface of this admirable but ultimately disappointing memoir states, Rodriguez, an award-winning poet and publisher of the small press Tia Chucha, decided to document his youth as an East Los Angeles gang member in an effort to steer his teenaged son, Ramiro, away from the gang that he recently joined. A member of various Latino gangs based in and around the South San Gabriel Valley during the late 1960s, Rogriguez participated in random acts of violence, and was imprisoned on several occasions for the crimes he committed. Unfortunately, he offers frustratingly little detail behind the facts of his life and activity in the gangs. Rodriquez presents colorful characters and highly charged events, such as shootings, Mexican funerals, rapes and arrests, but his writing style renders much of that rich material forgettable.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An absolutely unique work: richly literary and poetic, yet urgent and politically explosive at the same time...A permanent testament to human courage and transcendence."
-- Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities

"Rodriguez's account of his coming of age is vivid, raw...fierce, and fearless...Here's truth no television set, burning night and day, could ever begin to offer."
-- Gary Soto, The New York Times Book Review

"Every spiky anecdote from a life of guns, razors, uppers, downers, glue, heroin, sex, and early death supports this former gang member's view of the violence as collective suicide. That Rodriguez's memoir takes place...before the '92 L.A. riots only makes this beautifully written and politically astute account more compelling."
-- Suzanne Ruta, Entertainment Weekly

"Extraordinarily haunting and evocative."
-- Paul Ruffins, The Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743276914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743276917
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The son of Mexican immigrants, Luis J. Rodriguez began writing in his early teens and has won national recognition as a poet, journalist, fiction writer, children's book writer, and critic. Currently working as a peacemaker among gangs on a national and international level, Rodriguez helped create Tia Chucha's Café & Centro Cultural, a multiarts, multimedia cultural center in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Luis Rodriguez's autobiographical account of a gang member's life in Watts, East Los Angeles was the most expressive, powerful, and vivid depiction ever to be told. Through his novel, Always Running he has opened my eyes to the realism of gang life. I mean you see it in movies, the news, sometimes even on the streets, but to read about it and visualize it in your mind is like being there and living it. Through Rodriguez's novel he has shared his life with us, and in hopes of deterring younger generations of turning over to "la vida loca", the crazy life.
Rodriguez joined his first gang at age eleven, and by age eighteen, he was a veteran of gang warfare, killings, police, drug overdoses, rapes, Mexican funerals, and suicides. He has watched his friends die one by one at such early ages as he waits his turn of his finalty. The turning point of Rodriguez's life turns out to be when he killed an innocent man as his initiation to a new gang. Because of this he was sentenced to jail where he was able to think hard about what he wanted to do with his. And now look at him he is an award winning journalist and author. but despite his successful transition he later experienced the karma of his childhood when his son Ramiro falls into the wrong crowd in their home Chicago, and joins a gang. Always Running is a novel dedicated to Ramiro Rodriguez and all the other lost children in the world who has lost hope and turned to the hellish streets of gangster life. Through his novel Luis not only shares his life experiences, but he also shares with us how he saved his son. So waste no more and read this very compelling, moving story of a father and son reunion.
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Format: Paperback
So much has been written about this powerful, truthful and inspiring memoir by Luis J. Rodriguez that I doubt that I could offer anything to add to the book's understanding and appreciation. But of all the professional reviews, the most telling critiques come from the high school students and teachers some of which are printed in the first two pages of the most recent edition of "Always Running." One student, Johnny Mendez, offers the chilling but hope-filled words: "History repeats itself and we must make some changes." These words are chilling because Rodriguez writes of events from the 60s and 70s yet a high school student of today sees the same despair, neglect and fear that existed a generation earlier. The hope we see is in the high school student's resolve: "[W]e must make some changes." Rodriguez has just opened a bookstore in Sylmar, California, named after his wonderful and misunderstood aunt, Tia Chucha, where he hopes to reach out to Latino youth to help them find a path towards full and productive lives. The fight continues. And this book still speaks the truth, eloquently and to all.
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By A Customer on October 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
In Australia, we are yet to the stage where our cities have turned into concrete jungles, swallowing each generation of youth into violence and drugs. I will honestly say that I cannot relate to the upbringing depicated in this book as I have been lucky enough to live in a city where 13 year olds ride their bikes and play football in the park, with the only threat to their health would be falling of their bike. I don't say this to be offensive, I say it because I have been lucky.
Luis has shown these kids living in the barrio's do not have time to be children and enjoy the simple things in life that growing up has to offer. Instead they are frustrated, and pushed into a world of drink, drugs, murder, violence, rape, sex and parenthood well before they have turned into adults physically. I hope peace can be brought to these barrios as killing themselves is not the answer. I will not preach to have the answer.
The deeds done and written in the book by Luis and his friends, depicted images of grown men, however they are mere teens who need more assistance from the governments, police and each other to forge friendship and peace instead of hatred and death.
Maybe politicians, parents and the police should read books like this and other gang books to try to understand the plight of those living in these barrios and then educate themselves to enable the vatos locos to make their barrios places of pride without fear of death and allow them to grow into whatever they want to be just like Luis.
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Format: Paperback
Poetry is a means of focusing on moments that are drawn from extended experiences to form a brief, concise, immediately communicable feeling. Few achieve this as well as Luis J. Rodriguez, an East Los Angeles poet, novelist, and Chicano activist. Rodriguez has gained his powerful language from his childhood in the barrios of Los Angeles, a twenty-eight year prison sentence for three counts of attempted murder, time spent in the inner city of Chicago, a Navajo Reservation, and then back to East Los Angeles. His life has been one of gangbanger, drug abuse, theft, stabbings, shootings, homelessness, and near-death experiences from drug overdose. He has earned his scars: he wants to share them in hopes they will lead him back to a man who demands respect.

Rodriquez' language is harsh, brutal, intentionally ugly, and in the end, pitiful. Yet it is in this particular combination that allows his poems to find their combustible energy. They show his life's journey from victim to perpetrator to witness to revolutionary. And at the basis of his work is now the palpably virulent need to reach his son in an attempt to prevent a repetition of his own 'la vida loca'.

Rodriguez is not easy to read but his poems are essential to understand the particular peripheral life that borders our cities. And for this reader he captures the power of Dante's Inferno in a language that is crucially immediate and ultimately human. He has earned out attention and we are the better for his poetry. Grady Harp, November 05
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