It Calls You Back
Host Carlos Chavez interviews author, poet and activist Luis J Rodriguez. They discuss his new memoir, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing.
Luis J. Rodriguez has emerged as one of the leading Chicano writers in the country with fifteen published books in memoir, fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, and poetry. Luis' poetry has won a Poetry Center Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, and a Paterson Poetry Book Prize, among others.
Luis is best known for the 1993 memoir of gang life, “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.”. Now selling more than 400,000 copies, this book garnered a Carl Sandburg Literary Award, a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award, and was designated a New York Times Notable Book. Written as a cautionary tale for Luis' then 15-year-old son Ramiro—who had joined a Chicago gang—the memoir is popular among youth and teachers. One Los Angeles Public Library official said “Always Running” is the most checked out book in their vast library system—and also the most “stolen.” Despite its popularity, the American Library Association called “Always Running” one of the 100 most censored books in the United States
His latest book is the long-awaited sequel to “Always Running,” entitled “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing” (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster), released in the fall of 2011.
Luis is also known for helping start community organizations-like Chicago's Guild Complex, one of the largest literary arts organizations in the Midwest; Humboldt Park Teen Reach in Chicago; and Tia Chucha Press, one of this country's premier small presses. He is a founder of Youth Struggling for Survival, a Chicago-based not-for-profit working with gang and non-gang youth. He helped start Rock A Mole (rhymes with guacamole) Productions, which produces music/arts festivals, CDs, and films in Los Angeles. And he is co-founder of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural—a bookstore, performance space and workshop center in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, which also sponsors the "Celebrating Words: Written, Performed & Sung" Literacy and Performance Festival. In addition, Luis is a renowned gang intervention specialist in Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities as well as Mexico and Central America. His 2001 book “Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times” (Seven Stories) summarizes three decades in this area.