Matt Eckel's Reviews > Always Running

Always Running by Luis J. Rodríguez
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Sep 24, 07

Read in April, 2005

I found out about this book during my time working at Garfield. There were a lot of books in the classroom libraries about gang life, books of poetry by Tupac Shakur, stuff the students prefered as it had to do with, "you know, real life." Which was, in a way, bullshit. I mean, a few of them, maybe could relate to that, and the ones that could were sorry of the fact and didn't flaunt it. One kid I remember, his older brother had been killed in a gang-related shooting. He wasn't a particularly good student, this kid, but he was always there and he was always respectful; he knew it would kill his mother if he didn't at least get through high school.

Anyway, I read a lot of these books, and out of all of them, this one was far and away the best. It was the students' favorite as well. And for good reason: it's a compelling story, the writing is beautiful, the characters are complex -- that is, "real" -- and the preaching is kept to a minimum. Rodriguez speaks from his own experience, acknowleding his own mistakes without exactly apologizing for them. In general, there's not a whole lot of editorializing, the author simply describes the events as he remembers them. While you could look at Always Running as street-journalism, I think that's really selling it short; the book is filled with characters you actually care about, and that, for any writer, is no easy trick.
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