Always Running Notes

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  • Published : April 25, 2013
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In ALWAYS RUNNING, Luis J. Rodriguez offers a loosely organized but thoroughly wrenching account of his experience growing up in and around Watts and the Las Lomas barrio, just east of Los Angeles. Rodriguez, a poet and journalist who now resides in Chicago, was born in 1954 in El Paso, Texas. His parents, recent immigrants from Mexico, soon migrated to the Los Angeles area. There, Rodriguez experienced the indignities of poverty, prejudice, and nearly unchecked police brutality. Joining a gang and living “la vida loca” (the crazy life) came naturally in such a setting. Rodriguez spent much of his adolescence stealing, fighting (usually against Latinos from a rival barrio), and getting high in every conceivable way. Rodriguez’s rescue from this consciously self-destructive lifestyle came through art and politics. His writing and artistic ability received just enough nurturing so that he began to find more power in the pen and brush than in the sword. He wanted power to challenge and ultimately change the harsh social conditions which produce gangs. Thus, Rodriguez replaced the radical alienation of a gang member with an equally radical commitment to political action. This transition was the turning point in his life. This book is made all the more poignant by Rodriguez’s recognition that gangs have become a more sinister social presence than they were during his day and also by his personal stake in the matter: concern for his son Ramiro, to whom the book is dedicated. Rodriguez knows why the lifestyle of gang members appeals to poor and disillusioned youth. But, as this book shows, he also knows the futility of “always running.”
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