From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Sanchez, who had been raped at age five by a cousin, left Puerto Rico for Chicago when he was seven, and reveled in his new home, excelling in school and at baseball. But his unloving mother married a monster, and by the time Sanchez was ten, he was taking to the streets to avoid their vicious beatings. Frightened by the bloodshed, he resisted joining the Latin Kings, the largest and most violent gang in the city, but by the time he was 13, Sanchez was drinking and getting high and training himself to suppress his compassion and embrace the very brutality he had suffered. Initiated into sex by a woman nearly three times his age, he became a sexual predator and soon felt no compunction about shooting his rivals. A survivor who turned his life around, Sanchez writes plainly and powerfully, and what is shocking about his tragic tale is not the barbaric actions of young gangbangers but the appalling collusion of adults, from criminally abusive parents to mercenary gun dealers and immoral cops. --Donna Seaman
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Chicago in the 1980s provides the setting for this extremely disturbing and raw account of a Puerto Rican teenager who lost himself to violent gang activity. Now repentant, Sanchez (a pseudonym) writes in a voluble voice, replete with operatic asides declaiming the immorality of his actions. But he offers a forceful and unusual perspective on ChicagoÄin Sanchez's telling, it's a place of territorial graffiti and racist cops, in which a slow-motion riot of drugs, sex and gunplay constantly unfolds. Sanchez recounts his family's arrival in Chicago's Northwest Side in the late 1970s, when he was a small boy; he describes the beatings his grifter stepfather regularly doled out; and he portrays the allure of the mysterious and ritual-bound lives of tough, teenaged gangsters. When his family returned to Puerto Rico, he stayed behind. Soon, he joined the fearsome Latin Kings, and his given street name "Lil Loco" attested to his youth and ferocity. While graphically describing what he witnessed as a gang memberÄsenseless killings, inter-ethnic hatreds and sexual abuse of gang-affiliated womenÄSanchez also pursues harder truths, arguing that it is a minority of promiscuous drug-users accompanied by community-wide silence that keeps the gangs in business. In the end, he condemns his former gang for masquerading as a Latino "public service" organization while high-ranking members become rich from their youthful recruits' drug dealing. And he scoffs at their reliance on conformist rituals and violence (violations of the rituals were punished with full body beatings). Offering very little hope, this book captures the dark, self-destructive lot of countless urban teens. Like other gangland memoirs (such as Monster and Always Running), it is significant because it takes the reader deep inside a secretive and brutal ethnic gang subculture. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved