Many Americas

Luis J. Rodriguez (1954-    )

Always Running: La Vida Loca--Gang Days in L.A.


  • Born in 1954 in El Paso, Texas, and grew up in Watts and East Los Angeles
  • Became involved with gangs at age 11; lost 25 friends to gang violence by age 18.
  • Married three times; four children, two each from his first and third marriages.
  • Attended several California colleges and technical schools during the 1970s and early 1980s, including California State University, Hondo Community College, East Los Angeles College, and University of California at Berkeley. 
  • Worked in the 1970s as a truck and school bus driver and in various factories and industries (lamp factory, paper mill, foundry, oil refinery. chemical refinery).


  • Worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, primarily in Los Angeles and Chicago, during the 1980s and continues to work as a journalist and critic, with his work appearing in such publications as The Nation, Los Angeles Weekly, and Americas Review.
  • Has won numerous awards for his poetry and for the memoir Always Running, including a Carl Sandburg Literary Award and a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award for the latter. Always Running was also chosen as a New York Times Notable Book for 1993.
  • Founded and directs Tia Chucha Press.
  • Heavily involved in community-centered projects, many of them centered on his role as a potential peacemaker with gangs in Chicago and L.A.

Major Writings

Poems Across the Pavement
The Concrete River (1991)
Trochemoche (1998)

Always Running: La Vida Loca--Gang Days in L.A. (1993)

Children's Books
America is Her Name (1998)
It Doesn't Have To Be This Way (scheduled for publication in 1999)

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volume 142, and Contemporary Authors, Autobiography Series, Volume 26.  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at   (Volume 26 above contains portrait.)
  • Some reviews of Always Running:
    • New York Times Book Review, February 14, 1993 ("The Body Count in the Barrio," by Gary Soto, available in the New York Times Books Archive)
    • Chicago Tribune; February 25, 1993
    • Los Angeles Times; March 31, 1993
    • Los Angeles Weekly, March 5, 1993

Retired Discussion Series

Debbie Sturman, Director
425 South Main Street, P O Box 510
Lusk, WY 82225-0510
Phone: 307-334-3490
© 2019, Niobrara County Library