What is the author's message in the book Always Running?
The author's message is that gangs and violence lead nowhere, and that only through banding together as a community can we hope to save our children from that fate. The author had first-hand experience with gang culture, growing up in East Los Angeles. His first run-in with the police occurred when he was 10, & from then on he was essentially lost in the system. In fact, one could argue that he was at a disadvantage from the first moment he entered school, since he didn't speak English, and wasn't allowed to speak Spanish. He encountered teachers, social workers, and others in positions of authority who either simply didn't care, or were openly hostile. Due to all this, he dropped out of school. Along the way, he met Chente Ramírez at a community center created in response to the escalation of gang violence. A university-educated Chicano, Chente introduced Luis to political activism and Chicano pride. Luis returned to high school, where he too led political actions. He became the first non-Anglo to serve as mascot to the school football team, the Aztecs. He graduated and briefly attended college. It was this action of leaving his hometown that allowed him to escape the influence of gangs.
Rodriguez’s rescue from this self-destructive lifestyle came through art and politics. His writing and artistic ability flourished, so that he began to find more power in the pen and brush than in the sword. He wanted power to challenge and ultimately change the harsh social conditions which produce gangs. Thus, Rodriguez replaced the radical alienation of a gang member with an equally radical commitment to political action. This transition was the turning point in his life. It is this message that he wanted to share with others, especially his own son, whom he saw falling into the same patterns of violence he himself was susceptible to as a boy.
Always Running is a memoir written by Rodriguez to his son, Ramiro, who, just like himself, joins a street gang as a teenager. Rodriguez’s message is about the dangers of gang life. He hopes to influence his son into making the right decision and abandoning the gang lifestyle he has chosen. He acknowledges that even though society might be structured in a way that pushes one towards such a lifestyle, it is in an individual’s best interest to make prudent decisions.
Rodriguez narrates how he ended up a gang member at such an early age and the cycle of violence that ensued. He dropped out of high school, was thrown out of his family house, got entrapped in drug abuse, and saw some of his comrades lose their lives, while others ended up behind bars. Gang life is a never-ending cycle of violence and crime that culminates in death or a jail term.
Rodriguez is, however, optimistic that with the right guidance and choices, a person could turn their life around. He met Chente, who influenced him greatly and initiated his turn-around. Rodriguez went back to high school and got involved in a number of community projects. He became a peace ambassador and mediated between the local rival gangs. He finally graduated and got a scholarship for his writing and painting.