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Comment of the Fortnight
2 August 1998
Always Running - The Controversy

The board of the San Jose Unified School District has decided not to remove the book Always Running - La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez (ISBN 0-671-88231-7) despite vocal opposition by a group of parents.

These parents say that the book glorifies gang violence, and the graphic depiction of sex is unsuitable for high school students, and have started a recall petition for several of the board members.

A recent letter to the editor in the San Jose Mercury News says in part:

But having read the book, I could not see any social, educational or moral value. "Always Running" glorifies violence, drug use, sex and racist ideas. I can only imagine an impressionable young person reading this. If he made it only halfway through, he might think "how cool this guy was." If someone were not to read the whole book, he would not see that it is anti-gang.
Well, I read the whole book through, and I find it jam-packed with educational and moral value. As the letter writer himself acknowledges, once one reads the whole book one finds that it is anti-gang. The book is sufficiently well-written that I doubt anyone would stop in the middle.

Yes, there are sex scenes - the first one is some 120 pages into the book. The description of a gang-rape is hardly glorified; Rodriguez says: "I didn't want any part of it. Something filled my throat and I puked around my shoes."

This directness and honesty is what gives the book its power. The parent group, I am sure, wants only the best for its children, but I think they're wrong on this one. Keep the book available, and keep the school board members in their posts.

P.S. Another book of this genre is Memos from Purgatory by the very wonderful Harlan Ellison (ISBN 0-441-524389). I recommend it as well.

In Other News...

Mom is coming to visit this week, so I've been busy shoveling out my house. At least I don't have to straighten the place up any more when she visits.
The Dress. OK, you knew I had to say something about the dress. Wouldn't there be a whole bunch of embarrassed folks out there if the FBI said, "After careful examination of the dress, we conclude that Ms. Lewinsky really needs to exercise more caution when eating pizza. That sort of grease stain is just about impossible to get out of an Ungaro spring frock."
Thanks to all the folks who responded to last fortnight's comment. Anyone out there want to trade an Olympus D-600 for a Nikon Coolpix 900? Let me know.

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