Republic of East LA
From the award-winning author of Always Running comes a brilliant collection of short stories about life in East Los Angeles. It is a life brimming with hope and vitality, the depiction of which reaffirms Luis J. Rodriguez as not only one of America's keenest urbanists but as a writer with a perfect blend of humanist empathy and poetic soul.
Behind this famed enclave's notorious gang violence its well-documented and stereotyped poverty rates, and the supposed desperation of those who live in East L.A. without any hope of escape, lies one resounding element: real people, with real strength, in very real predicaments.
Whether hilariously capturing the voice of a philosophizing limo driver in his late twenties whose dream is to make the most of his rap-metal garage band in "My Ride, My Revolution," or the monologue-styled rant of a tes-ti-fy-ing!tent revivalist named Ysela in "Oiga," Rodriguez squeezes humor from the lives of people who are not ready to sacrifice their dreams due to circumstance. In so doing, he allows readers to enter into the hidden and hope-filled chambers of an individual's spirit, only to artfully balance this with the more serious intonations of life's grimmer realities.
In "Finger Dance," Rodriguez pays tribute to the slow death of a violent and harsh father who, in his last days, is rendered physically and mentally helpless. In "Pigeons," we are shown a world where Mexican-Americans ironically and hypocritically distrust Mexicans, while in "Sometimes You Dance with a Watermelon," we meet a mother who finds momentary relief from her life with a good mambo, a hot sun, and a juicy piece of fruit.
In these stories, Luis J. Rodriguez gives eloquent voice to the neighborhood where he spent many years as a resident, a father, an organizer, and, finally, a writer: a neighborhood that offers more to the world than its appearance allows. The Republic of East L.A. is unforgettable fiction from a true talent.