Luis J. Rodriguez

Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Award-winning Activist, and Bestselling Author
Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. and It Calls You Back

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 poverty and despair in the barrio of East LA 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., a vivid memoir that explores the motivation of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants. Always Running earned a Carl Sandburg Literary Award and was designated a New York Times Notable Book; it has also been named by the American Library Association as one of the nation’s 100 most censored books.

Rodriguez’s latest book is the sequel to Always Running, entitled It Calls You Back: An Odyssey of Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster).  It is also available in audio through Dreamscape Audio Books. In 2012, It Calls You Back was longlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the Autobiography category

Rodriguez is also known for helping start a number of prominent organizations — such as Chicago’s Guild Complex, one of the largest literary arts organizations in the Midwest; Rock a Mole (rhymes with guacamole) Productions which produces music and art festivals, CDs and film; and Youth Struggling for Survival, a Chicago-based non-profit community group working with gang and non-gang youth. In addition, he is one of the founders of the small poetry publishing house Tia Chucha Press, as well as Tia Chucha's Café & Centro Cultural—a bookstore, coffee shop, art gallery, performance space, and workshop center in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles.

An accomplished poet, Luis J. Rodriguez is the author of several collections of poetry, his latest being My Nature is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004 (Curbstone Press). His poetry has won a Poetry Center Book Award and a PEN/Josephine Miles Literary Award among others. His books for children, America Is Her Name and It Doesn't Have To Be This Way: A Barrio Story, published in both English and Spanish, have won several awards including a Patterson Young Adult Book Award and a Parent’s Choice Book Award. Rodriguez is also the author of Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times and a novel, Music of the Mill. He is the co-editor of Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts Are Transforming a Community with Denise M. Sandoval, which was named a Bronze Winner by the Independent Publishers of America, and won the 2013 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award.

Luis J. Rodriguez’s honors include a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Lannan Fellowship for Poetry, a Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, a California Arts Council fellowship and several Illinois Arts Council fellowships. He was one of 50 leaders worldwide selected as “Unsung Heroes of Compassion,” presented by the Dalai Lama. In 2014 Rodriguez was appointed Los Angeles Poet Laureate.

Luis J. Rodriguez conducts workshops, readings, and talks in prisons, juvenile detention facilities, universities, migrant camps, Native American reservations, conferences, public and private schools, and homeless shelters. He addresses the complex but vital issues of race, class, gender, and personal rage through dialogue, story, poetry, and art.

“ Art is the heart's explosion on the world. There is probably no more powerful force for change in this uncertain and crisis-ridden world than young people and their art. It is the consciousness of the world breaking away from the strangle grip of an archaic social order. ”  — Luis J. Rodriguez

"Rodriguez’s account of his coming of age is vivid, raw….Here’s truth no television set, burning night and day, could ever begin to offer.
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The New York Times
"Never sentimentalizing or sensationalizing his material, Rodriguez writes honestly and incisively from experience, knowledge and compassion." Publishers Weekly
"Luis Rodriguez is an example of how powerful an impact literature can have on young lives, and as Poet Laureate, he will impact youth across Los Angeles." Eric Garcetti,  Mayor of Los Angeles
Luis J. Rodriguez©Arlene Mejorado