Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of Michael V. Sedano
Luis J. Rodriguez, poet, memoirist, and fiction writer, will return to Aquinas College’s Contemporary Writers Series for the season‘s third event. Rodriguez will read from his work on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.
Since Rodriguez last read on campus in fall 2011 (as part of the 2011–2012 season of the Contemporary Writers Series), he has published a new volume of poems called “Borrowed Bones” (which appeared in 2016) and served as poet laureate of Los Angeles (from 2014 to 2016). He also published, in 2012, the non-fiction book “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey of Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing,” which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. “It Calls You Back” is a sequel to what is perhaps Rodriguez’s best-known book, the bestseller “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” published 1993, which is a memoir of the author’s teenage years as a member of a street gang in East Los Angeles.
Rodriguez was born in 1954 in El Paso, Texas, and his family moved to the Greater Los Angeles Area when he was two years old. “When 11 years old, I started my first gang; when 12 years old, I started doing drugs,” says Rodriguez in a YouTube video. “When I was 15, I got kicked out of school. So that’s why I ended up living in the streets. Somebody’s going to fall through the cracks, and I ended up being the one that fell through the cracks. By the time I was 18, I was facing a six-year prison sentence. By then I was really hooked on heroin. I had lost 25 friends. They ended up dying, they ended up becoming heroin addicts, or they ended up in prison.” Rodriguez’s website adds that, at 16, he had—in prison—Charles Manson for his next-cell neighbour.
But everything changed at the end of Rodriguez’s teenage years. No charges were filed in the case where he was facing the six-year prison sentence, he quit heroin, he went back to high school and graduated. He became a poet, a writer, and a journalist. He moved to Chicago in 1985, where he even founded his own publishing press a couple of years later.
And then the story came full circle: Rodriguez’s son joined a street gang in Chicago.
That’s when Rodriguez wrote “Always Running.”
With the success of “Always Running,” Rodriguez became a full-time writer. He has published 15 books, and his œuvre includes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature.
Come see Rodriguez in the Wege Ballroom at Aquinas College at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. The reading, like all events of the Contemporary Writers Series, is free and open to the public.
About the Writer: