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Readings and Reflections

Luis Rodriguez is convinced that a writer can change the world. Indeed it is through education and the power of words that Rodriguez saw his own way out of the barrio of East L.A. and successfully broke free from the years of violence and desperation he spent as an active gang member. Achieving success as an award-winning Chicano poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more— until his young son joined a gang himself. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in the bestseller Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. (1993), a vivid memoir that explores the motivation of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants. An international best seller, the memoir also garnered a Carl Sandburg Literary Award, a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award, and was designated a New York Times "Notable Book".

Despite this, the American Library Association in 1999 called Always Running one of the ten most censored books in the United States. Efforts to remove his books from public school libraries and reading lists have occurred in Illinois, Michigan, Texas, and more recently in California, where the battles were quite heated.

An accomplished poet, Luis Rodriguez is the author of three collections of poetry: Poems Across the Pavement (1989), The Concrete River (1991), and Trochemoche (1998). Rodriguez's poetry has won a Poetry Center Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, and ForeWard Magazine's Silver Book Award, among others. His two children's books have won a Patterson Young Adult Book Award, two Skipping Stones Honor Awards, and a Parent's Choice Book Award, among others.

In May 2001, Rodriguez became one of fifty individuals from around the world to be recognized as an Unsung Hero of Compassion, an honor bestowed on him by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Forthcoming in the spring of 2005 is Luis Rodriguez's first novel, Music of the Mill (Rayo Books/HarperCollins).

This evening with Luis Rodriguez is jointly sponsored by the Athenaeum and the Dean of Students at CMC with support from a grant by the Irvine Foundation.