Luis J. Rodríguez
Luis J. Rodríguez (b. 1954) is a poet, journalist, memoirist, and author of children’s books, short stories, and novels. His documentation of urban and Mexican immigrant life has made him one of the most prominent Chicano literary voices in the United States. Born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rodríguez grew up in Los Angeles, where in his teen years he joined a gang, lived on the streets, and became addicted to heroin. In his twenties, after turning his back on gang violence and drugs, Rodríguez began his career as a journalist and then award-winning poet, writing such books as the memoir Always Running (1993), and the poetry collections The Concrete River (1991), Poems Across the Pavement (1989), and Trochemoche (1998). He has also written the short story collection The Republic of East L.A. (2002). Rodríguez maintains an arts center, bookstore, and poetry press in L.A., where he continues writing and working to mediate gang violence.
Luis J. Rodríguez
Luis J. Rodríguez (b. 1954) is a poet, journalist, memoirist, children’s book writer, short story writer, and novelist whose documentation of urban and Mexican immigrant life has made him one of the most prominent modern Chicano literary voices. He is perhaps best known for his memoir Always Running (1993), a powerful account of his time spent in Los Angeles–area gangs in the 1960s and ’70s.
Rodríguez was born in El Paso, Texas, although his family lived in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where his parents worked in the public school system. When he was two years old, Rodríguez and his family moved to Los Angeles. Growing up in L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley, Rodríguez was exposed to violence, ethnic tension, and the dehumanizing effects of poverty. He joined a gang not long after the Watts riots of 1965 and became addicted to heroin at a young age. Kicked out of his home, he spent many of his teen years living on the streets or in the family garage. He would later draw on these difficult experiences for much of Always Running.
As a teenager, despite his troubled home life and increasing criminal arrests, Rodríguez continued to attend school and developed a strong interest in both art and politics. He rallied against the Vietnam War and helped organize walkouts and protests in high school and the community. He was also commissioned to paint murals throughout his South San Gabriel neighborhood. After community members testified on his behalf during sentencing in a criminal trial, Rodríguez vowed to clean up his life. He quit drugs, attended college classes, and worked a number of jobs to support himself.
In his mid-twenties, Rodríguez began to establish himself as a journalist and writer, producing stories for LA Weekly, the San Bernardino Sun, and other papers. In 1985 he moved to Chicago and began expanding his literary ambitions. Rodriguez established himself as a fixture in the emerging poetry slam scene, and in 1989 he founded Tia Chucha Press, which published Poems Across the Pavement (1989), his first book of verse, as well as the works of other poets in Chicago and throughout the United States. He followed his poetry debut with the collections The Concrete River (1991), Trochemoche (1998), and My Nature Is Hunger (2005) from Curbstone Press.
In addition to writing poetry, Rodríguez continues to work as a journalist and nonfiction writer. He has covered crime, city life, revolutionary politics at home and abroad, Chicano heritage, and other topics for national publications such as the Nation and the New York Times. With Always Running, he captured the attention of readers around the world and become an international bestseller. Rodríguez wrote the book as a cautionary tale for his son Ramiro, who had gotten involved with gangs in Chicago. Since the success of that first memoir, Rodríguez has published more poetry collections, a novel, a short story collection, another memoir, and nonfiction accounts of youth, crime, and recovery. One of Rodríguez’s primary concerns as a writer continues to be the experience of poor immigrants in US cities, a theme reflected in his novels and children’s books as well as first-person accounts.
Rodríguez currently lives in L.A. with his wife, Trini, and their two sons. He also has a daughter and another son from his first marriage as well as four grandchildren.