I grew up around gangs. It’s something that I know quite well. I was never in one. But I have seen beat downs, shootings, and a lot of violence growing up in Southern California. I also have read and idealized a lot of that culture in many ways. My sister married someone that was formerly of that life. I’ve bought and sold this book several times in my life, “Always Running” by Luis J. Rodriguez. This is a book about gang life in East Los Angeles. Rodriguez doesn’t hold back, he gives his account of growing up in the hard way, and how changes needed to be made, or he would suffer the fate of many of his friends. This is an unflinching look at gang life, and it’s a heavy read.
Woa! Sorry to stop your flow of reading. I wanted to interject and say that this is an older review. I know, old content isn’t always great. However, if you’re reading this, just know that this is a review that I wrote after reading the book in 2018. I’m working on 2019’s reviews, and will post them as I can, but this is from my archives. Sorry to break up the flow again, just continue reading, and please try the fish! I mean, buy the book.
Rodriguez pulls no punches in describing his life. In fact, you’re going to find that this becomes a serious issue through the book. If you are expecting anecdotes and safe tales with a little mire here and there, you’re in for it. Rodriguez describes the bloody details, and even the X-rated sexual experiences that he went through as a member of a gang. He talks about getting jumped in, the cholo culture, and everything you could possibly want to learn about in regards to Latino gang life. Now, there are points of redemption, but not without going through a lot of severe experiences. Growing up in poverty, Rodriguez gets into gang life early on, and it’s not a friendly arena.
I was an immigrant for many years. My experience was not as frantic or as difficult as what Rodriguez went through. However, it is immensely similar in some ways. I found that there were areas that I saw in my own life. I felt the poverty, I grew up in the hood, but was spared the fighting elements that were found. The experience of Rodriguez is a splintered and heavy handed one. Where violence reigned on him and anyone that attempted to assimilate during the 1960s and 1970s. He would eventually grow out of those areas and be given opportunities, but not without finding himself trapped in two worlds.
Just like any other cautionary tale, you will find that “Always Running” by Luis J. Rodriguez speaks of the same devil. You get the highs and the lows, but mostly lows. As people around him are dying, he seeks out refuge in education, but is pulled back into gang mentality in different arenas of culture. He gets out of it, but not without serious scars. In fact, he details his conversion into regular life, meeting a woman that would stand up with him, and carry him at times, and what he is doing now. He lived a hard life, by choice. He is not a victim of innocence or anything, he absolutely pushed the limits, and this is a warning bell of a book.
Overall, I have to give “Always Running” by Luis J. Rodriguez a 3 out of 5. I like the book enough, but it almost seems over run with the same tropes every other story from the gang world gives you. There’s no glamour here, mind you. However, there is a lot glossed over in my view, and some things just seem out of place. There is a lot, don’t get me wrong, but this short book definitely leaves you with something to be desired. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but this is not a long book. I liked it. It gives you a glimpse of gang life in southern California, but it doesn’t prove modern in some ways. I’m sure it has an audience, it’s been censored and debated a lot, but it’s a good read for those that are curious about gang life and want to learn more about history.
You can purchase “Always Running” by Luis J. Rodriguez by clicking here, and ordering it from Amazon.com