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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2001
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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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2002
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2001
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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2012
I'm Latino, born in 1954 just about the authors age. I saw the gangs, the crime and suffered the discrimination. However, I did not choose to join a life of crime and violence. Reading this book I saw the author portray himself a victim driven to attacks on innocent whites and murder of fellow Latinos because of the circumstance of his race and geography of his birth. Many, actually most Latinos in Los Angeles and across the country worked hard, excelled in school and became productive members of society and by example broke down the walls of racism and exclusion. This guy is nothing but a clever criminal still pulling the scam on Anglos who read and believe, "this is the way it was". Choosing a life of drugs, crime and violence is just that a choice. Tough luck we didn't have the same chances as white America but I became a man and made the best of it. The author doesn't think much of himself, but he certainly is all he thinks about.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2006
Many young people face the same perils Luis Rodriguez shares in this auto biographical coming-of-age story; some overcome these challanges, while others succumb. But, how many rise as far above them as Rodriguez has?

Read chapters Six and Seven, where this dropout gang banger-by-night, drops back in and emerges as high school political organizer. Here, we are given intimate access to Rodriguez's thought processes as he resolves dramatic inner and outer conflicts, transforms his thinking, and ultimately decides to trade his unproductive life of folly, for one dedicated to social justice. It's a "makeover" of epic proportions.

Perhaps the real reason one school district attempted to ban this book from its classrooms, and a small-town Council attempted to remove it from their library (despite the outrage of the American Library Association) is not because of the sex, drugs and violence in the book, but because the book details the political transformation Rodriguez went through in becoming: first a high school organizer; second, a community organizer; and finally, an internationally-known advocate for social justice.

I've asked my high school students if the descriptions of sex in the book (mostly groping and rape) made them want to have sex; if the drug use (od's, wasting away and death) made them want to take drugs; and if the violence (shotgun blasts in the face, maming and death) made them want to be violent. They just sat and shook their heads -- no!

It's a page turner. Read it, but read it all, even the "boring" parts about trying to save a community, being shot at for advocating a gang truce, and learning how to turn anger and self-hatred into something positive.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2005
here is a book report i have written for a class of mine

Always Running follows Luis Rodriguez, an uprising Chicano growing up in the ghetto in East Los Angeles. The book tells of events in his early years and as a teenage rebel. He has a strong personality and fantastic leadership skills, and was involved in many Chicano peace organizations as a teen. But the problem was, he lived in between two barrios, or gang neighborhoods. The two infamous gangs were Sangra, and Las Lomas (literally meaning "The Hills") and were crucial in the Eastern part of L.A. at that time, from the 1960s to mid 70s. I chose to read this memoir because it interested me in its relevance to gang violence, drugs, and sex in East Los Angeles. Such tragic events that happened in the book, not in order include: the Vietnam War, Luis getting jumped, forcing his jaw to awkwardly stick out, giving him the nickname Chin, and him almost dying from an overdose on aerosol spray.

When the Vietnam War happens, Luis is 16, and goes to Belvedere Park to protest. He gets arrested for resisting it, when an officer orders him to move and says, "Chale, this is my park" (pg. 161 Chale is Spanish slang for "no"). This is important because it was a sign of dignity to stand up to the police; they weren't treating him right. He believes that he should stand up for his rights and not get trampled on by authority just because they are in charge.

Luis gets jumped because he defends his brother when two older boys corner him and talk smack about his brother Rano. They say he is a lambiche or a kiss ass, but Luis says its not true (pg. 50-51). They keep making fun of Rano, and Luis mumbles something under his breath about how he doesn't have the time to argue with them. One of the boys thinks he called him a puto, a male whore, and gets angry. They then start beating on Luis, punching and kicking aggressively. One of the punches goes straight to his jaw, making it awkwardly protrude outward giving him the nickname Chin. This is very important to Luis because he was defending his loved one and also gets a messed up jawbone for the rest of his life.

Drugs. This book wouldn't be the book it is if it didn't have them. Luis got into drugs at about 13 years old, starting with aerosol spray and eventually shooting up heroin for a little bit. But the big event that happened was his near-death experience with aerosol. Luis wanted to get away from it all; jail, violence, school, everything. So he started aerosol and began to use it heavily. One day he was sniffing with his homeboys when he started tripping out bad. It was like he was in a far away fantasy land and everything disappeared. It all faded away and turned into a big bright light. Luis wanted to get to the light so bad, to feel like there was no worry in the world, to escape from reality completely. Suddenly he blacked out and felt like there was nothing left. His sight came back into view; Luis was getting breathed into. He woke up and didn't sniff the rest of the night. His homeboys said he had died and stopped breathing (pg. 102-104). It was probably the most important thing that happened to him, because he almost died. He also learned how drugs can affect you in such a way that you don't even know where or who you are.

Luis learned a lot of things over the years. He had learned about drugs and their effects, he had learned about violence and the streets, and he had learned about who he really was. Violence was not the way to handle things, he finally learned. You had to think about what the problem was and how to solve it-without using violence. Luis also learned how other people can get affected by just one little sniff of aerosol or one kick of a police officer. He figured out at an early age that all this unfair treatment by the cops was because of the color of his skin. But he kept on living his life and made it on top.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2003
Luis Rodriguez's autobiographical account of his childhood in East Los Angeles presents an opportunity for the reader to gain valuable knowledge and insight into a culture/community that is completely foreign to many people. While the book relates numerous accounts of gang activity, sexual encounters, and drug use, it often fails to explain the emotional and psychological framework in which these events occur. As Rodriguez's writing style is choppy, the book, at times, reads like a laundry list of a child's escapades and exploits, instead of a novel that is attempting to promote social change.
Nevertheless, the subject matter is extraordinarily interesting and the book is definitely worth reading. Luis Rodriguez's story is an incredible account of the perseverance of the human spirit against great adversity. Just don't expect to come away from the novel with a much greater understanding of gang mentality than you can get from reading the newspaper.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2001
There has never been a more clear and compelling account of a gang member's life than Always Running. Luis J. Rodriguez's frighteningly vivid chronicle of his youth in Los Angeles in the late 60s and early 70s. Growing up in Watts and East L.A., Rodriguez joined his first gang at age 11 and was drawn into "la vida loca" - the crazy life. Gangs were "how we wove something out of the threads of nothing," he remembered. By the age of 18, he was a veteran of gang warfare, police killings, drug overdoses, and suicides that claimed the lives of 25 of his friends and had driven him and so many others to despair. In part, Rodriguez survived the violence and desperation of his youth by writing down his experiences. Always Running is packed with episode after episode of high drama, but within this honest and powerful depiction of social devastation, there is a father's message of understanding and hope to his son and to thousands like him. Rodriguez's inspiring story should be read by anyone who cares about the future of children in America.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 1999
Always Running is a book into one man's life and his constant movement away from Mexico, drugs, gangs and relationships. Although a tough young thug schooled on the streets of Los Angeles, Louis T. Rodriguez is a promising young man, all he needs to do is look into his soul to find out who he really is. Rodriguez' unique writing style take's leaps and bounds throughout his life highlighting all of his mishaps and accomplishments. Each page draws you in with a new story each one more interesting than the last. He doesn't bore you with small detail and foreshadows a life taking turns for the worst with each new episode. From a young age he is on the move hardly able to get settled in one place with his family. He's forced to live a life of poverty on the streets where he seeks companionship. He finds it in many different gangs and men who decide to run his life for him. In gangs he learns how to use a gun, run from the cops and indulge in many elicite drugs. He's caught up in a battle between his family and the one's he's met on the street. Dropping in and out of school he's confronted by many teachers who give him direction, if he choses to accept. It's a lot like the movie Blood in Blood Out, with all the gang affiliations and subtle cries for help from young men with no where to run. Leading a crazy lifestyle Louis tries to convey a message of morality to a son who is slowly slipping into a life he has often seen.
I was so intrigued by this bookl that I hardly ever put it down. I finnished it in a matter of hours it seemed and went back over it to find new insights. I thought it grasped a much deeper side of me that wanted to know why people chose gangs. The novel painted a picture of greatness through all the trials and tribulations brought forth by an inteligent street smart man, wanting to bring hope to those like himself. I couldn't beleive how captivating it was as I could hardly wait to read about each next encounter. It had my eyes glued to the text and mind racing with enjoyment. I would recommnend the book to anyone who enjoys reading something which will change your outlook on everything. It will make you see the real person behind an iron mask of a gang lifestyle.
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