“St. Regis [the paper mill] was one of the impediments to falling back into the barrio and the craziness this would lead to. This was because the drugs, the homies, the homegirls, the excitement and violence often called me back. For so long this was all I knew. I didn’t return much to the old neighborhood but when I did I fell back into the hole.” —excerpted from It Calls You Back
Always Running was a compelling autobiographical account of author Luis Rodriguez’s life growing up as a Latino gang member in the mean streets of Watts and East Los Angeles.
He explored the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claims its participants. With over 400,000 in print since 1995, Always Running remains timely and at once vivid, raw and powerful; a fierce lyrical journey of one man’s break from gang life.
Rodriguez demonstrated that one can rise above a seemingly predetermined destiny, and triumph of a book, stands as an inspiration to the human spirit, and a powerful depiction of the state of urban youth in America.
Always Running is now widely regarded as a classic of Chicano literature and is used in schools throughout the country to teach students about the perils of gang life.
It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions and Healing (Touchstone Hardcover / Simon & Schuster; October 4, 2011; 978-1-4165-8416-2; $24.99) is the highly anticipated sequel of Luis Rodriguez, now chronicling his harrowing journey from gang member to one of the most revered figures in Chicano literature and American letters. In his second memoir, Rodriguez shows his post-gang life which contained even more drama and turmoil than the life he depicted so vividly in Always Running.
Growing up on the streets of East Los Angeles, Luis Rodriguez narrowly escaped injury in gang shootings and avoided long-term jail sentences, including arrests for attempted murder and assaulting police officers. He then struggled to overcome his powerful addiction to heroin and alcohol—his recovery became a colorful, tumultuous journey. He worked in a series of jobs, including in a steel mill; married several times; fathered four children; ran for political office; traveled the world; established a poetry press, community center, and bookstore; and became an internationally respected gang interventionist. Eventually, Rodriguez embarked on a career as a successful writer and highly regarded poet. But his life was no rags-to-riches fairy tale.
In his new book, “It Calls You Back”, Rodriguez describes with heartbreaking honesty his challenges as a husband and a father and his difficulty leaving his rages and addictions completely behind.
Most disturbing is the terrifying realization that he cannot save his own son Ramiro from the deadly lure of gang life. At the age of 21, with two previous violent felony convictions, Ramiro was sentenced to 28 years in prison (he was released in the summer of 2010 after serving a total of fifteen years).
Luis’s emotional journey offers deep insight into barrio life and the embattled souls of those men and women who risk everything to make it out of violence and despair—and return to help those left behind.
Luis J. Rodriguez is the son of Mexican immigrants. He began writing in his early teens and has won national recognition as a poet, journalist, fiction writer, children’s book writer, and critic.
Rodriguez co-founded Tia Chucha Press and Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, a cultural center in Northeast San Fernando Valley.
He is currently working as a peacemaker among gangs on a national and international level. He has appeared on national television, radio and has an extensive speaking schedule. Please visit his website at www.LuisJRodriguez.com.
Praise for It Calls You Back:
“In this brilliantly jagged sequel to the gang-life classic, Always Running, acclaimed journalist, poet and fiction writer Rodriguez chronicles his struggle to leave behind a drug- and crime-ridden world that always threatened to ‘call him back’…Raw, searing reading from start to finish.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Writing with needle-to-skin candor… Rodriguez’s courageously forthright memoir illuminates the tragedies of prejudice, gangs, and the prison-industrial complex; affirms the need for equality, education, and rewarding work; and reminds us of the tremendous potential of every life.” —Booklist
“Rodriguez’s life story is astonishing . . .It takes a heart broken open by a lifetime of sorrows to write with this wisdom and compassion. It takes a visionary to use this knowledge in service to those the world despises—troubled youth, the homeless, the incarcerated, the poor, the migrant—to be called back for those you love.”
—Sandra Cisneros, author of Caramelo and The House on Mango Street
Here are upcoming events:
Sunday. October 30, 2011; 5:00 PM
Modern Times Bookstore (2919 24th St, San Francisco CA 94110)
Wednesday, November 2, 2011; 7:00 PM
Elliott Bay Bookstore @ Northwest African American Museum (2300 South Massachusetts
Seattle, WA 98144)
Saturday, November 5, 2011; 4:00 PM
Libreria Martinez (216 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701)
Wednesday, November 9, 2011; 7:00 PM
Rainbow Book Store (426 W. Gilman Street, Madison, WI 53703)
Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.