Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Second Edition

Hearts and Hands deals with many of the difficult issues addressed in Luis Rodriguez's memoir of gang life, Always Running, but with a focus on healing through community-building. Empowered by his experiences as a peacemaker with gangs in Los Angeles and Chicago, Rodriguez offers a unique book of change. He makes concrete suggestions, shows how we can create nonviolent opportunities for youth today, and redirects kids into productive and satisfying lives. And he warns that we sacrifice community values for material gain when we incarcerate or marginalize people already on the edge of society. His interest in dissolving gang influence on black and latino kids is personal as well as societal; his son, to whom he dedicates Hearts and Hands, is currently serving a prison sentence for gang-related activity. With anecdotes, interviews, and time-tested guidelines, Hearts and Hands makes a powerful argument for building and supporting community life.

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“Combining personal memoir, perceptive sociological analysis and astute advice about political organizing, Rodriguez, whose youth included 'drugs, jail, and gang warfare,' writes movingly of how he turned his life around and dedicated himself to working with teens at risk. While attacking the image of teenage males as the primary instigators of violent behavior, R. focuses on the specific problems of yong males, 'trying to negotiate their lives' in the face of enormous problems, with little in the way of adult models. Never sentimentalizing or sensationalizing his materials, R. writes honestly and incisively from experience, knowledge and compassion.”

“Rodríguez is a relentless truth-teller, an authentic visionary, a man of profound compassion … [In Hearts and Hands] he acknowledges the lessons we can learn from the social sciences, he scrutinizes what succeeds and what fails in the realm of public policy, but he never allows us to forget that the rescue of young people is also 'a spiritual quest.'”

“[A] beautifully written and politically astute account.”

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From 2014 to 2016 Luis J. Rodriguez served as the official Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. He’s the author of fifteen works of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and children’s literature. His most recent memoir, It Calls You Back, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He’s been the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers Award, Lannan Foundation Poetry Fellowship, Carl Sandburg Book Award, PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, and more. A script consultant for the FX drama Snowfall, he founded Barking Rooster Entertainment, a production company for film, TV, web, and other content. He founded the well-respected Tia Chucha Press close to thirty years ago, which publishes mostly poetry collections, and is co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center & Bookstore in LA’s San Fernando Valley. In addition to traveling extensively, he teaches every week at two maximum-security yards at Lancaster State Prison. You can visit his website at www.luisjrodriguez.com.