Luis J. Rodriguez has emerged as one of the leading Chicano writers in the country with fourteen published books in memoir, fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, and poetry. Luis' poetry has won a Poetry Center Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Paterson Poetry Book Prize, among others. His children's books-America is Her Name and It Doesn't Have to be This Way: A Barrio Story-have won a Patterson Young Adult Book Award, two "Skipping Stones" Honor Award, and a Parent's Choice Book Award. A short story collection, The Republic of East LA, and a novel, Music of the Mill, came out in 2001 and 2005, both from Rayo Books/Harper Collins. A poetry collection, My Nature is Hunger: New & Selected Poems, appeared in 2005 from Curbstone Press/Rattle Edition. Limited-edition hand-made art books and broadsides of Luis' poems have also been made by C & C Press of Pajaro, CA for sale to collectors, universities, libraries, and other institutions, including Seven, Two Women/Dos Mujeres, and Making Medicine.Luis is best known for the 1993 memoir of gang life, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. Now selling more than 300,000 copies, this book garnered a Carl Sandburg Literary Award, a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award, and was designated a New York Times Notable Book. It became a stage play by the Cornerstone Theater Company, showing at the Mark Taper Auditorium in the LA Public Library from 2003-2005 to 6,000 high school students, and the Ivar Theater in Hollywood for a limited six-day run in 2005. Written as a cautionary tale for Luis' then 15-year-old son Ramiro-who had joined a Chicago gang-the memoir is popular among youth and teachers. Despite this, the American Library Association in 1999 called Always Running one of the 100 most censored books in the United States. Yet for all the controversy, Luis has gained the respect of the literary community. Among his awards, he's received a City of Los Angeles Arts Fellowship, a Sundance Institute Art Writers Fellowship, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Lannan Fellowship for Poetry, an Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, an Algonquin West Literary Award from West Hollywood, CA, a National Association for Poetry Therapy Public Service Award, a California Arts Council Fellowship, an Illinois Author of the Year Award, Illinois Arts Council fellowships, the 2001 Premio Fronterizo, and a "Unsung Heroes of Compassion" Award, presented by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Luis is also known for helping start community organizations-like Chicago's Guild Complex, one of the largest literary arts organizations in the Midwest; Humboldt Park Teen Reach in Chicago; and Tia Chucha Press, one of this country's premier small presses. He is a founder of Youth Struggling for Survival, a Chicago-based not-for-profit working with gang and non-gang youth. He helped start Rock A Mole (rhymes with guacamole) Productions, which produces music/arts festivals, CDs, and films in Los Angeles. And he is co-founder of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural-a bookstore, performance space and workshop center in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, which also sponsors the "Celebrating Words: Written, Performed & Sung" Literacy & Performance Festival. In addition, Luis is a renowned gang intervention specialist in LA, Chicago and other cities as well as Mexico and Central America. His 2001 book Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times (Seven Stories) summarizes three decades in this area. Because of this, Luis is has become a leading gang expert testifying through affidavits, phone testimonies, and court appearances in more than 50 cases, mostly deportation cases to Mexico and Central America. His thirty years of urban peace and gang intervention work was utilized in the development of the Community-based Gang Intervention Model, with other LA gang peace advocates and interventionists, which the LA City Council approved in February 2008, and is now sent across the country to assist other cities and communities. On top of this, Luis has spent almost thirty years conducting workshops, readings, and talks in prisons, juvenile facilities, homeless shelters, migrant camps, universities, public and private schools, conferences, Native American reservations, and men's retreats throughout the United States. He's also traveled to Canada, Europe, Japan, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Puerto Rico doing similar work among disaffected populations. And he edits the online Chicano magazine, Xispas.com. Luis has been part of the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation's Men's Conferences since 1994 with Mosaic founder Michael Meade, healer Orland Bishop and American Buddhist Jack Kornfield. At these conferences, the complex but vital issues of race, class, gender, and personal rage are addressed with dialogue, ritual, story, poetry, and art involving men of all walks of life, including those in urban street gangs. He also created a CD of original music and his poems called "My Name's Not Rodriguez" for Dos Manos Records, released in the summer of 2002. And Luis' work has been widely anthologized, including in Letters of a Nation: A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters (1997 Broadway Books), the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (1999 Thunder's Mouth Press), and Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (2001 Three Rivers Press). His poems and articles have appeared in college & high school textbooks throughout the US and Europe. He's done radio productions/writing for LA's KPFK-FM, California Public Radio, Chicago's WMAQ-AM's All-News radio, and WBEZ-FM. And his writings have appeared in The Nation, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News & World Report, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, American Poetry Review, San Jose Mercury, Grand Street, Bello, Utne Reader, Rock & Rap Confidential, among others. Luis is currently a columnist for the century-old The Progressive magazine out of Madison, Wisconsin and a regular honorary guest host on KJLH-FM's Front Page talk show in LA.
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