Winner of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, hailed as a New York Times notable book, and read by hundreds of thousands, Always Running is the searing true story of one man’s life in a Chicano gang—and his heroic struggle to free himself from its grip.
By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East Los Angeles gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests and then watched with increasing fear as gang life claimed friends and family members. Before long, Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation.
Achieving success as an award-winning poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more—until his young son joined a gang. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in Always Running, a vivid memoir that explores the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants.
At times heartbreakingly sad and brutal, Always Running is ultimately an uplifting true story, filled with hope, insight, and a hard-earned lesson for the next generation.
Read an Excerpt
"Cry, child, for those without tears have a grief which never ends."
This memory begins with flight. A 1950s bondo-spackled Dodge surged through a driving rain, veering around the potholes and upturned tracks of the abandoned Red Line trains on Alameda. Mama was in the front seat. My father was at the wheel. My brother Rano and I sat on one end of the back seat; my sisters Pata and Cuca on the other. There was a space between the boys and girls to keep us apart.
"Amá, mira a Rano," a voice said for the tenth time from the back of the car. "He's hitting me... see more
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Reading Group Guide
Luis J. Rodriguez
1. Luis Rodriguez relates the events that led his family from Ciudad Juarez to Los Angeles. What do you think the events that surround his father's coming to the United States say about the immigration experience? How do you think such a history could influence the self-perception of the locos and other Mexican kids -- as well as the way Anglos perceive them?
2. The yearly battle, "the Tradition," seems to help reinforce the identity of the groups involved. Why do you think this tradition could be reassuring to both groups, even though it centers on violence? What does each group get out of it?
3. Luis reflects on the power of prejudice in this way: "If you came from the Hills, you were labeled from the start...Already a thug. It was harder to defy this expectation than just to accept it....Why not make it your own?" (p. 84). What are some examples of Luis and others making the stereotypes and prejudices "their own"? Do you think Luis's logic is empowering or self-defeating? Why?
4. Always Running gives many examples of how the violence between Sangra and Las Lomas is constantly renewed. Do you think this cycle of vengeance could be broken? If so, how?
5. Discuss Luis's near-death experience and attempted suicide? How were these two events connected to his officially becoming a Lomas loco during the same period?
6. Did the community centers affect gang life? If so, h see more