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March 06, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

ALWAYS RUNNING: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez (Touchstone: $10; 260 pp.). A gangbanger at 12, Rodriguez presents a bitter portrait of the poverty, violence and despair that blight many Southern California neighborhoods. The emptiness he sought to escape in dangerous adventures preyed on his soul, until "I arrived at a point which alarmed even me, where I had no desire for the internal night, the buoyancy of letting go, the bliss of the void. I required more, a discipline as bulwark within which to hold all I valued, a shield against the onslaught." This discipline has been expressed through his writing and his work as a peacemaker among inner-city gangs, an ongoing memorial to the fallen homeboys he mourns.

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