By Cristina Galvan
Inspiring others to turn their lives around, renowned Chicano author Luis Rodriguez shared his story of emergence from abuse and jail in his new book “It Calls You Back.” The book, which was released in October, is a sequel to the famed novel “Always Running,” which focuses on Rodriguez’s experiences with gang life.
“It Calls You Back” starts with Rodriguez getting out of jail in 1973. Police arrested him after trying to help a woman who was being beaten.
The book also focuses on Rodriguez’s first son, Ramiro.“It talks about the change that happened in me (after the birth of his first child),” said Rodriguez. Rodriguez made a promise he would be a good father, but he said he was not. When Ramiro was two-and-a-half years old Rodriguez walked out on him.
Rodriguez felt guilty when his son was arrested and had to serve a 13-year sentence. After Ramiro’s sentence, Rodriguez would write to him every week, and he would visit him as often as possible so he would not feel lonely.
“It Calls You Back” also deals with the subject of abuse, which affects a lot of families. The author openly talks about finding out that his own father molested his sister and the effect it had on his own family.
Rodriguez admits that some of his family members were upset with him and felt humiliated that he wrote about what his father did. Rodriguez read passages from his book and answered questions from East Los Angeles College students in the audience.
He answered questions about his activism and his time in Mexico. He also spoke about the importance of education. After presenting his new book, Rodriguez signed copies of it and took pictures with students. Students were excited to get their books signed and enjoyed Rodriguez’s visit. Some felt as if they could make a connection with Rodriguez.
ELAC students Adrian Baltazar and Robert Silva felt that they could relate to Rodriguez a lot. “I like how Rodriguez wrote about our culture and what we go through,” said Baltazar. Silva also mentioned that his brother went through the same thing. Several factors motivated Rodriguez to write “It Calls You Back.”
“I think I really wanted to help people. (Abuse) is a big problem for a lot of people,” said Rodriguez.Rodriguez was also motivated by his son’s release from prison. Ramiro is currently helping kids get out of gangs.Also, Rodriguez started Tia Chucha Press, one of the nation’s leading poetry presses that helps unknown artists become published and more recognized.
Rodriguez, along with co-founders Maria Trinidad Rodriguez and Enrique Sanchez, also opened Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, which is a non-profit cultural arts center and bookstore in the San Fernando Valley.
“The San Fernando Valley has a large Hispanic community. There was nothing there for them,” said Rodriguez. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural helps others learn about Chicano heritage through a variety of art mediums with the use of books, workshops, art exhibits, presentations, readings, family events and performances.
Rodriguez’s passion for writing is traced back to ELAC. “This is the place where I really got into writing,” said Rodriguez. Rodriguez offered some tips for students who are interested in writing, which are to read and write all the time. “Never give up. Keep at it (writing) because it is a hard business,” said Rodriguez.