Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Booknote: My Bloody Life

I am trying out a new format for my book notes and reviews. We'll see how it works.
Title: My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King
Author: Reymundo Sanchez (pseudonym)
Published in 2000 by Chicago Review Press
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Memoir
299 pages
Similar authors or titles: Sanyika Shakur's Monster (1994), Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets (1967).

This is the harrowing and moving account of Reymundo Sanchez, a man who at the age of 14 became a member of the feared Latin Kings gang. Born in Puerto Rico, Sanchez moves to Chicago. His childhood is lost as his father dies, then his mother discards him, and his stepbrother rapes him. These events fuel the downward spiral that leads to his gang membership. Sanchez's book is written in an engaging and graphic style. Drugs, sex, and violence are common ocurrences, a fact of life. Known in the gang as King Lil Loco, Sanchez's reputation increases on the basis of his violent actions.

Sanchez writes about the need young people feel to belong to something. He writes how he was lost without parents in an inner city where if you were not a member of a gang you would not survive. The gang provided him with love, a place to belong, and other benefits. However, the irony for Sanchez is the fact that he did not want to join but did so anyways. As he describes his initiation ritual, he writes that "I stood there like an idiot with no desire to be a King but no courage to say so. The one chance I had to prove that I was not a coward by speaking up and saying so passed me by. Because of my cowardice I was about to be initiated into the biggest and most violent Latino gang in Chicago" (139). And he was initiated after a three minute beating at the hands of his own brothers.

At times, some readers may think gang life is glamorous, but Sanchez soon dispels this. Sanchez had women, alcohol, drugs, and guns as well as the love of his brothers. However, he finds out that women usually want him because he was violent; they were more aroused the more violent he was. There are a couple of female figures who try to help him, but he rejects them, only to see later they were trying to help him. Drugs and alcohol destroy his life, especially drugs. His addiction eventually makes him too dangerous even for his Latin King brothers. As for guns, he shots people and gets shot at. And he comes to see that "Amor de Rey" ("King Love") is fickle and far from loyal. Sanchez had to fear his fellow gang members just as much, if not more at times, than members of rival gangs. To make matters worse, police corruption was ever present, and the adults in these youths lives often facilitated their gang banging lifestyle.

This book is a strong cautionary tale. Readers who may pick it up due to fascination with gangs, not unlike fascination with true crime tales or mob stories, may soon lose some of the fascination as Sanchez reveals his path of self destruction. This is a moving tale of what really happens inside a gang. I highly recommend this book.


Anonymous said...

Amor De Rey!!! I Read The Book!!! Crazy Feels Like He Was Talking About My Life!!! King Tainy

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said... do realize this book is not for the glorification of the Latin kings, right? Quite the contrary, actually. It is supposed to teach individuals about the destruction that the gangbanging lifestyle creates. It is not supposed to make kids want to join a gang, which is what seems to be the way you took it :| **

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Anon @ 341p: If you think I took the view of glorification, you really did not read the review. Please reread, noting especially the last paragraph, and you may want to look up the definition of "cautionary tale."

Best, and keep on blogging.