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on January 17, 2004
"I just want to know why me,!" Reymundo Sanchez wails during an explosive argument with his estranged sister about how, as a child, he suffered years of abuse at the hands of their mother. That question, which occurs about two-thirds of the way through this sorrowful memoir, haunts every page of this book, and indeed seems to have been the theme of much of Mr. Sanchez's scarred, young life.

Born in 1963 to a 16-year-old mother and a 74-year-old father in the hilltop village of Cayey, Puerto Rico, Sanchez (a nom de guerre) survived being raped and beaten by his 18-year-old cousin at age five. After his father died, his mother quickly remarried, decamped Puerto Rico, and moved the family to Chicago. There, Sanchez suffered another wave of physical and psychological torment from his mother and stepfather (and, subsequently, a third father figure named "Pedro") while his sisters seemed to escape much, if not all, of the mistreatment. At 13, Sanchez found himself alone on the mean streets of Chicago, after his mother cast him out of the family home.

By the mid-1970s, the Latin Kings had established themselves as a highly organized megagang in Chicago, and their mantra "Amor de Rey" ("King Love") seemed to hold the promise of a better, if not love-filled existence for Sanchez, who quickly joined. To his dismay, though, he found only further violence and ruinous relationships in his newly adopted "family." Still, as a gang member, there were other castaways with whom he could relate, and although he hated what was required of him to maintain his membership, at least he felt a sense of belonging.

Eventually, even the brotherhood of the Kings proved to be an illusion, and for the next ten blood-splattered years, Sanchez existed at the fringes of society on the unkindness of strangers and on a steady diet of alcohol, cocaine, and loveless sex. In the name of the Latin Kings, he also returned to society much of the brutality that had been inflicted upon him, by participating in the usual gang fare of beatings, shootings, and other acts of violence and revenge.

Most of these events are chronicled in Sanchez's first book, My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King (Chicago Review Press, 2000), a savage record of a young immigrant's cold life on the streets, whose hopeful finale had Sanchez quitting the Latin Kings and thinking ahead to college.

In this tortured sequel, Sanchez lets us know that that is not how things turned out.

Like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part III, Sanchez proved no match for the lure of la familia, and was pulled back into the thick of the Latin Kings" lucrative drug trade, despite numerous attempts to stay out. He acknowledges that trying to give up gang life "is like trying to quit an addiction."

After he was arrested and convicted on a drug trafficking charge, the young gangbanger spent two years in a state prison, which, he says, turned out to be his salvation. Sanchez reports that it was a turning point in his life, and freely admits that, paradoxically, it was his membership in the Latin Kings that afforded him that singular opportunity. He used his time inside to educate himself, to write, and to begin reflecting on all that happened in his life -- this time from an adult perspective, and in relative seclusion.

In a series of emotional hemorrhages, Sanchez resurrects his tangled past, in particular, several ill-starred sexual relationships he had with women he mistook for people who cared, in part, one would imagine, out of a desperate need to relieve his own immense suffering, to feel loved, and to feel, finally, a sense of belonging to someone, anyone. Only in a coda tacked on at the end of the book does he reveal perhaps the real source of his impulsive behavior, and it's as eye-opening as it is troubling.

While the first half of Once a King focuses on Sanchez's misdeeds as a "restored" member of the Latin Kings, the second half centers around his life-redeeming but ultimately ill-fated relationship with a discontented feminist named Marilyn. Marilyn seems to be the first person in Sanchez's life who challenges his intellect, and whom he can trust with the knowledge of his horrific past. It is therefore devastating to Sanchez when she uses his past against him in a heated and ultimately violent exchange that alters their relationship forever. As Sanchez recalls: "The one and only person I had ever opened up to about that experience with my cousin had just used my own words to destroy me."

But destroy him it didn't. In a final chapter titled "Here and Now," Sanchez seems to have achieved another level of self-awareness and acceptance, even if he still seems disquieted about the past. Although his family's lifelong indifference toward him still haunts him, he has come to terms with it.

As a sequel to My Bloody Life, Once a King is best understood in the context of the earlier book. Like its predecessor, it is a somber, intense pathography, but offers a somewhat deeper insight into its author's tender psyche.

Sanchez's narrative style is effortless and evocative; its power lies in the naked honesty with which he chronicles his ultimate deliverance from the past. There are times when it seems he is revealing too much about himself; at other times, it's hard not to want to reach through the page, extract him from the situation he's in, and give him a life-affirming hug. Though the prose has its flaws ("Hearing the name made me mentally reminisce about the old days") and occasional cliches ("I had been robbed of my childhood and young adulthood"), Sanchez hits his mark so often, and with such resonance and candor, that it is easy to forgive him the occasional miss. --Jeff Evans, author of Undoing Time: American Prisoners in Their Own Words
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on July 13, 2005
I would defiantly recommend this book to a few of my friends. I think that instead of agreeing with the way that gangs are it really helps to show you all the bad things that are involved. I would really like to show this book to the friends that I have that "think" they are gang bangers or want to be. He is letting you know that you wont be able to live your own life and that you will be stuck following behind another criminal and stuck doing the things that they do. "I hope and pray that other people who secretly live in pain because of sexual, mental, and physical abuse get professional help before they turn around and cause the same kind of lifelong pain and suffering on some one that love, who loves them."(xiv). I really liked this book because of the incredibly interesting events that you don't really hear about every day, the point it is trying to make is positive and influential, and the fact that it is a real story trying to help you prevent the same mistakes. "The drive-by shooter hit one of Loca's two kids. I ran to him and cradled him in my arms but he was already dead"(2). I also like that he influences you to go to school and try to improve your education to get out and stay out of that life style. It gives really good advice that all of the people on the streets should listen to. I would recommend it because it really helps to get a really good point across that gangs aren't what they say they are and that they are really a lot worse than you think.
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on December 8, 2003
I enjoy reading, in fact their is nothing that I enjoy more then curling up with a good book. I finished Part I, and when I realized their was a part II I ran to the bookstore and picked it up, this book is amazing, very easy to read, keeps you captivated from the moment you start to reading it, very exciting, and you only wish you can locate his mother and find out why she did the things she did. I am a native of Chicago and very familiar with all of the streets, and even Bellas Pizza, you only wish you could have been around to give the author the love he needed growing up. An excellent book, I highly recommend it.
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on February 16, 2005
After reading Reymundo Sanchez's first book "My Bloody Life", i wanted to know more. I was excited when i heard there was a second autobiography! This was a great book, and needless to say, i finished it two days! Yes, there is excitement from the beginning to the end, but this isnt a book only for those involved in a gang or associated with that lifestyle. Reymundo reminds us ALL that with hardwork and determination, you too can succeed. Enjoy.
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on December 5, 2003
I read "My Bloody Life" in two days, and immediately picked up the next installment, "Once a King, Always a King". Last year through Americorps, I taught in an elemenatary school near Humboldt Park, with the majority of kids coming from that neighborhood. These books gave me insights on two levels. First, it gave me a glimpse of what some of these students go home to, and what their life is like after the bell rang at 3. I did not grow up in an inner city neighborhood, so these books are extremely valuable. Second, and most importantly, it gave me a sense how the parents of these children grew up, and how these cycles of behavior that Sanchez describes in the book are being repeated in their children and grandchildren with whom I worked. I work with children again this year, and now have a new sense of urgency to help these cycles of self-destruction stop. However, despite my best efforts, my words and actions cannot be validated in the same way that Sanchez's can - I did not grow up poor, surrounded by gang violence, etc. In that way, I applaud Sanchez's ability to be so candid and honest, for that is the only way to get his message across. I also applaud his ability to take ownership and responsibility for his actions, and rather than hide them, he boldly confronts them, challenges them, and grows. I could only imagine the demons that he confronted and overcame. He is a true hero in a time when we care more about who Jennifer Lopez sleeps with than children who are destroying themselves. So, I personally would like to thank him for giving fuel to the fight not just against gang violence, but against violence in general and injustices. It is a must read for, well, anyone. Oh, and by the way, Mr. Sanchez, if you doubt your impact, I recently was at Clemente for a presentation, and talked with a teacher. That teacher recommended the book, because of my familiarity with the neighborhood, and said, "It's like a Bible around here." Let's hope that these kids open their minds and hearts to your message.
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on April 22, 2010
Once a King, Always a King
The Unmaking of a Latin King
By: Reymundo Sanchez

Reading, Once a King, Always a King as a freshman in high school is quite an experience. A sequel to, My Bloody Life, the book has many positive, as well as negative qualities. It is written by Reymundo Sanchez, a former Latin King, who struggles to escape the ties between him and the gang life he left behind.
Reymundo Sanchez grew up in Chicago under an abusive mother who left him under the supervision of men that beat him. With no family to turn to, he looks to the streets to find people who will care about him. This decision led him to the Latin Kings, which made him a ruthless gangbanger. Through his book, Reymundo Sanchez tries to give readers an idea as to what an inner city kid can go through and to warn readers about the dangers of getting involved in a gang.
Reymundo Sanchez does a great job achieving his goal for the book. While reading Sanchez's book, I realized that not all gang members are terrible people; they're in this situation because of the people who influenced them. Many of the kids are treated poorly by those around them, which forces them to go elsewhere to find a family atmosphere. This example shows the impact of this book on the readers.
Once a King, Always a King has a great deal of positive qualities, but there are a few negative ones as well. One great quality of this book is the writing. Unlike other books I've read this year, the writing doesn't get confusing or go into too much detail. Sanchez does a great job getting through the less exciting parts while still keeping the reader's attention. During these less exciting parts in the book, he included experiences along the way that showed his improvement as well as times when he started losing his way again. The best part about the book is that it makes the reader feel like he or she can do anything. The story of Sanchez's struggles makes the reader feel lucky to have such a great life. In one part of the book, Reymundo says, "Trying to get completely out of gang life is like trying to quit an addiction." This quote shows how hard he had to work to get his life back on track and how lucky we are to have our lives. The one downside to the book is that there is a lot of violence and sex described in full detail, which may not bother some readers, but definitely isn't for the squeamish. Overall, Sanchez's struggle to deal with the violence and abuse he has experienced is inspirational and makes for a great read.
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on May 4, 2009
I am giving a high school student's perspective on this book.

This sequel to "My Bloody Life" is a riveting greatly written novel. In "Once a King Always a King: The Unmaking of a Latin King." Sanchez explains his life after his escape from the Kings (which he joins again) and his struggle to stay out of trouble and in school. His girlfriend, Marilyn, helps him tremendously.

This book, written by Reymundo Sanchez, is an amazing book. It tells all about this fictional character's (a few of his friends mixed together) life inside of the Latin Kings. He starts outside of this gang in this book but then gets sucked back in many times. Each time he gets out some other opportunity for him to get back in comes along.

The portion of this book where the character is in jail is especially good. I found myself with a constant picture of what was happening in my head. Although sometimes the picture was quite vivid and disgusting it did not matter because of how well the book was written.

I think this book could be more enjoyed by the male reader. However, there is a romance that goes on within the book. The romance can be violent and sexual at many times. The reason why I say that this book might be geared toward the male audience is that there is so much violence. I personally enjoy that kind of writing but if you do not this is not the book for you.

It is amazing that he triumphed through being raped (by his 18 year old cousin), beaten (by his step father), sent to jail (because of running from certain death) and abandon by his mother as a child to finally being in and out of the Latin Kings and into college.

Over all I would recommend this book to any semi-advanced to advanced reader. It was an amazing book!
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on April 17, 2008
Once A King Always A King.
The Unmaking of a Latin King.
Author:Reymundo Sanchez. 283 pp.
Independent Publishers Group. $24.00

Reymundo Sanchez is motivational in urging gang members to abandon their lives on the street and start again. Temptations are constantly presented, however, the long-term satisfaction of accomplishments outweigh the temporary obstacles. Reymundo also reminds the other members of society that there are countless problems caused by this dangerous activity. In short, "Once A King Always A King" is written to merge a world full of crime with the unresponsive public to exhibit the need for the world to "refocus."
The author's name, Reymundo Sanchez is the pseudonym for a former Latin King member no longer living in Chicago. Due to the fact that the story is a personal account, the hidden identity is acceptable. Although there is no way to locate this man, it is easy to recognize some of his work. "Once A King Always A King" is written as a sequel to a book entitled "My Bloody Life."
Reymundo reaches his goal through the rawness of events and crude conclusion. An example of the effectiveness in simplicity is when "Rey" begins to develop strong feelings for a brilliant Puerto Rican woman named Marilyn. Sanchez says: "I respect you so much for what you have accomplished in your life, in the same period of time that I have done nothing. And now, well; now not only do I respect you but also I feel so good when I'm with you. I don't think I can say that about any other woman who has come into my life." Seeing thrugh the eyes of a substance-abuser who lacks education, a supportive family, and real freedom adds a genuine presence to each word.
Even after living a comfortable lifestyle where I have been offered opportunities ranging from culture to extracarricular activities, this book has allowed me to accept Reymundo Sanchez as a person who stands to represent thousands. Unfortunately, the intensity results in a very graphic novel filled with inappropriate language, which limits age reccomendation. Nonetheless, editing would make the book flowery. Gang life in Chicago deserves accurate representation. Hopefully, closing the book will not push the isses aside. Instead, you will be instilled with a desperate desire to keep future generations off the streets. Life has so much to offer. Bring people back today.
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on March 16, 2009
Once a King Always a King by Reymundo Sanchez was a very good book. I thought it was a very inspirational story. This book was really interesting to read because it was so real. The reader just gets wrapped up in the story. As a high school freshman I thought this book was fantastic. It really showed the dangers of gang life in Chicago. Kids start getting mixed up in gangs around when they are around my age and usually they don't fully understand what they're getting themselves into. Reymundo Sanchez tells about everything from his high rolling drug dealer life style to his two year stay in prison to his new life in Miami. Most kids get into gangs for the money and the glory. Reymundo tells about how it's not worth it at all and how much better it is to be a law abiding citizen.
The story has it's emotional up's and down's as it goes through the authors life. Each part is completely raw and uncensored which sometimes made it a little hard to read. All in all I loved this book and the message it sends. This truthful story shows every aspect of gang life, good and bad. Even though all odds were against Reymundo Sanchez, he turned his life around. During his two year stay in prison he realized he needed to change. He went to school, got a job and eventually moved to Texas. After a while, Texas wasn't working out so he moved to Miami, where he lives a normal life.
I would recommend this book to everyone. It teaches life lessons such as money isn't everything and school is important. It can save peoples lives from gang relations and drugs. Once a King Always a King is a really good book.
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on February 3, 2009
When I first picked this book off the shelf, a review on the back of it caught my eye. It said, "A riveting plot of drugs, sex, and gunplay". The quote, to say the least, got my attention, and so I sat down to see if the book was really that good. For the next few days, the book became my life entirely.
"Once a King, Always a King" is the story of Reymundo Sanchez, who is a former member of the Latin Kings. Sanchez was beaten, raped, and neglected as a child, and he found that the only way to protect him was to hurt others. As his bloody life progresses, he finds that his hate and violence will destroy him. Sanchez then reveals to us the physically and mentally tolling processes of removing yourself from a gang, especially one as big as the Latin Kings.
Word by word, I followed Reymundo's story, letting each chapter of his life take over my own. I have to admit, I became somewhat antisocial, but the book became my friends, my food, even my sleep. There has never been a book that has done that to me before. Sanchez's astounding story of success, failure, pain, and survival is like a knife, cutting up your insides, making you question everything you knew before. The writing is a work of art, but the real showstopper is the story itself. I don't care if you don't like Sanchez's writing style, or if you think it isn't really true, or even if you don't like books; you absolutely need to read this story.
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