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Ziemer 1 Eric Ziemer Mrs. Kautsch, 0o A.P.

English 11 24 February 2012 How a Gang Member’s Recollection Changed the World Always Running is a tale of aspirations, sketchy situations, the American dream, and the life of an average gangster from east L.A. Written as a recollection of his own early life as a gangbanger, Luis Rodriguez retold the issues he and his family went through in their early years in America, as new immigrants from Mexico. Rodriguez’s story is an important one to tell, for it profiles the gangster life from the poverty ridden slums that are prevalent not just in America, but in the world as well. It is very difficult to imagine what opinion the world would have of the gang life if this book was not written from the past memories of a gang member-turned writer. Once this fact is realized and accepted, how Rodriguez’s book has influenced opinions on friendship, family, and surviving the violent life as a child gangster should be an undisputed fact. Rodriguez paints a vivid picture of his youth and helps the reader understand the logical and emotional reasons that young people join gangs. “Many kids join gangs because they do not receive adequate family attention, the gang provides love, identity and status; in turn they develop loyalty to the gang” (11 Facts). Most of the kids who end up becoming members for most of their life, or until they are killed or imprisoned simply join because they wish to feel the comfort of being a part of something bigger than themselves, which is why gang life in places like east L.A. is looked upon as an alternative to going to school, attending college, and having a career. Those who do look to these gangs for happiness frequently lead unhappy and unfulfilling lives because of the drugs, violence, and corruption that goes along with the life of always

Ziemer 2 watching your back. Rodriguez’s life had turned to this shortly after immigrating, but in reality, that is not what this book is about at all. This authentic life account of being a gang member’s purpose is to inform the not informed and to reach out to those who can be touched by Luis’s own experiences. Always Running is meant to teach the uneducated about the immense amount of violence and horrible circumstances that occur are all around, and to attempt to persuade other young men that are similar to who Rodriguez was to quit the gang life a try for their dreams, and a better life. A large percent of young people in America today, have used or want to use illegal drugs such as Marijuana or cocaine: the gang life catered to these needs. According to a survey taken in 2008, gangs are the primary distributors of drugs throughout the U.S. and that they have begun to associate themselves heavily with Mexican drug organizations (11 Facts). Drugs along with alcohol abuse and other such problems afflict the entire gang population causing people such as the man Luis once wanted to be like to turn into a shriveled form of his own self: “…this man I once admired, if not revered, I once feared, if not hated, stands here, a fragment of the race, drunk, agonized, crushed…” (Rodriguez, p.245). Before the detailed recollection describing his own life was written, he was in the same situation described in the previous sentence, and he would have continued to fall down that path, like many young men sadly do today. One of the only ways someone can turn their life around like Luis J. Rodriguez did is by allowing his stories to touch their hearts in a way nothing has ever done before. Rodriguez is also inspiring to those who desperately want to leave the gang life or who unknowingly need to because of how successful he was after he retired from the “crazy life” (Luis J. Rodriguez – History). According to research, almost a third of the cities in the United States are involved with gang conflicts, that combined with the three quarters of a million gang

Ziemer 3 affiliates whose numbers are steadily rising indicates the current and larger future problem America for one will have on their hands. Luis’s story, although not proven, is sure to have brought many gang members back to their families and a straight lifestyle: from the emotion inducing gang-life accounts to the sad tales of friends and family being shot down because of unimportant quarrels, there is no possible way that his impact on society could have been less than extremely substantial. In today’s society there are a decreasing amount of genuinely good influences that do not have their own agendas behind the scenes. That is what seems to be the main reason why a struggling youth deeply involved in a gang may turn towards Rodriguez’s book, learn how to change their life, and accomplish what they want to do. Another main reason why such young children join gangs is because of racial discrimination and bullying. Because gangs are almost always separated by race or belief they believe they can be free to be the person they are on the inside and live with other similar people, as a strong collective of gang members. The only successful way for a gang member to remove their emotional attachment to their gang and retire from the dangerous life is to realize through the experience of other’s that you are hurting not only yourself, but the people you care most for. Luis realized this through prison time and was able to turn his life around, which allows him to have an overwhelming influence on many people whose lives would have turned out much worse without his insight into exactly what they were going through. Throughout life, people go through instances of hardship, but whether they are a few hours long, a few days long, or a few years long, there should always be someone there to help them through their issues, regardless of whether they put themselves in that situation or not. People like Luis Rodriguez should be admired for making the decision to make their life

Ziemer 4 successful and fulfilled once more. Despite the adversities that he faced in his life, despite the lack of respect from the Americans he wanted to have his life be like, despite joining a gang and risking his life to find happiness: he eventually became a better man, a role model, and a friend to anyone in need of his assistance, for wherever they had been, he had been there too.

Ziemer 5 Works Cited "11 Facts about Gangs." DoSomething.org. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. "Luis J. Rodriguez - History." The Website of Bestselling Author, Luis J. Rodriguez. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. Rodriguez, Luis J. Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone, 1993. Print.