Photographs by Joseph Rodríguez
Essay by Rubén Martínez
Interview with L. J. Rodríguez
We’ve heard about drive-by shootings and territorial battles in the news. East Side Stories brings the code, the lives, the words, and the hopes of actual gang members to light in this stunning collection of essays, photographs, and an interview of ex-gang member Luis Rodríguez, now the author of five books and the recipient of several major awards. The labyrinthine rules and codes of gang life are examined and explained, while intimate photographs of “gang bangers” in their homes and with their families put a human face on what is, for many of us, just another story in the afternoon newspaper.
In his interview, Luis Rodríguez explains that the demonization and false glorification of gang life has done much disservice to the termination of gang activity, activity which he defines as “90% boredom.” What’s the key to reducing gang violence and improving inner-city lives? To the dissolution of jail time as a right of passage? Part of the solution lies in providing better education, in teachers able to tap into and help direct the overlooked creativity of inner-city communities. A great responsibility lies, as well, in a national understanding and support for communities bound by poverty, and in encouraging people to work together to help people work for themselves.