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Hearts and Hands

Making Peace in a Violent Time

by Luis Rodruíguez
Review © 2001 by Bert H. Hoff


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Luis Rodruíguez, Hearts and Hands: Making Peace in a Violent Time (New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2001). Order on-line

MenWeb has an interview with Luis Rodruíguez, where he talks about the ideas that he developed later in his book. It's based on his own experience as a gang youth and prisoner and on the work he's done with Michael Meade and the Mosaic Project, reaching out and mentoring inner-city youth.

Hearts and Hands book cover
Hearts and Hands
by Luis Rodruíguez
Order on-line


Description Luis Rodruíguez’s life was once held in the grip of gang brotherhood and rivalries. In Hearts and Hands he patiently traces the emotional and spiritual terrain that ultimately allowed him to understand his milieu and to skillfully negotiate a sound future for himself and his family. Empowered by his own experiences as a peacemaker with gangs in L.A. and Chicago, the author makes concrete suggestions on how to approach the violence facing youth today. He warns that we sacrifice community values for material gain by incarcerating or marginalizing people who don’t contribute to the well-being of society as a whole. Rodruíguez approaches the issues from a grassroots perspective, influenced by the writings of Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and Lao Tzu. In these pages he forges a powerful, insightful, and healing response to the troubles of our times.

From Publishers Weekly
Rodruíguez (Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.) here takes a long, hard look at the endemic violence and the "cultural malaise of isolation and meaninglessness" that he sees as defining swaths of U.S. culture. Combining personal memoir, perceptive sociological analysis and astute advice about political organizing, Rodruíguez, whose youth included "drugs, jail, and gang warfare," writes movingly of how he turned his life around and dedicated himself to working with teens at risk. While attacking the image of teenage males as the primary instigators of violent behavior, Rodruíguez focuses on the specific problems of young males "trying to negotiate their lives" in the face of enormous problems, with little in the way of adult models. (The group dynamics of gangs give members "the empowerment that other institutions including schools and families fail to provide.) Rodruíguez urges the conscious creation of a "holy space" as a "temporary sustainable community" from which to fight violence. Always conscious of the role of poverty and behavior learned in prisons, Rodruíguez warns of the persistent problem of adults overreacting to child violence, as when a five-year-old girl was arrested and fingerprinted "for allegedly `assaulting' a fifty-one-year-old school counselor." Never sentimentalizing or sensationalizing his materials, Rodruíguez writes honestly and incisively from experience, knowledge and compassion.


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