It Calls You Back

An Odyssey through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing

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In a harrowing journey from drugged-out gang member to one of the most revered figures in Chicano literature and American letters, Luis J. Rodríguez continues the remarkable story of his bestselling memoir, Always Running.

Hundreds of thousands of readers came to know Luis J. Rodríguez through his fearless classic, Always Running, which chronicled his early life as a young Chicano gang member surviving the dangerous streets of East Los Angeles. The long-awaited follow-up, and the winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, It Calls You Back is the equally harrowing story of Rodríguez’s attempt to start over, at age eighteen, after his final stint in jail and nearly a decade of gang life. He describes with heartbreaking honesty his challenges as a father, and his difficulty leaving his rages and addictions completely behind. Even as he breaks with “la vida loca” and begins to discover success as a writer and an activist, Rodríguez finds that his past—the crimes, the drugs, the things he’d seen and done—has a way of calling him back.

When his oldest son is sent to prison for attempted murder, Rodríguez is forced to confront his shortcomings as a father and to acknowledge how and why his own history is repeating itself, right before his eyes.
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Book Details:
  • Touchstone | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416584179 | 
  • July 2012
List Price $18.99


It Calls You Back

Luis Rodriguez discusses his deep involvement in an East Los Angeles gang and his decision to leave the only life he ever knew.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for It Calls You Back includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Luis Rodriguez. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


“You’ll be back.” These are the words that Luis Rodriguez hears as he is departing Los Angeles County Jail, where he was incarcerated for assaulting police officers and resisting arrest after he tried to intervene in the beating of a handcuffed young woman. Instead of predicting a return behind bars, these words serve as an onus for Rodriguez to make more of his life. Clawing his way out of street life and heroin addiction, Rodriguez embarks on a journey that will turn him into a successful journalist, community activist, praised poet, and most importantly, a family man.

But Rodriguez’s journey is anything but smooth. He must come to grips with his own struggles and failures as a husband and father while encountering his own father’s past demons. He fights valiantly to prevent his son from succumbing to the gang lifestyle, but in the end will watch him be hauled away in handcuffs. Amidst the fights, addictions, blackouts, battles, and hardship, Luis will emerge from his odyssey a changed see more

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