It Calls You Back

An Odyssey through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing

It Calls You Back

Luis Rodriguez, author of the award-winning and bestselling classic memoir Always Running, chronicles his harrowing journey from a drugged-out gang member to one of the most revered figures in Chicano literature.

Hundreds of thousands of readers came to know Luis J. Rodriguez through his fearless classic, Always Running, which chronicled his early life as a young Chicano gang member surviving the dangerous streets of East Los Angeles. The long-awaited follow-up, It Calls You Back is the equally harrowing story of Rodriguez starting over, at age eighteen, after leaving gang life—the only life he really knew.

The book opens with Rodriguez’s final stint in jail as a teenager and follows his struggle to kick heroin, renounce his former life, and search for meaningful work. He describes with heartbreaking honesty his challenges as a father, and his difficulty leaving his rages and addictions completely behind. Even as he breaks with “la vida loca” and begins to discover success as a writer and an activist, Rodriguez finds that his past—the crimes, the drugs, the things he’d seen and done—has a way of calling him back.

When his oldest son is sent to prison for attempted murder, Rodriguez is forced to confront his shortcomings as a father, and to acknowledge how and why his own history is repeating itself, right before his eyes.

Deeply insightful and beautifully written, It Calls You Back is an odyssey through love, addiction, revolutions, and healing.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416584179 | 
  • July 2012
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for It Calls You Back includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Luis Rodriguez. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


 “You’ll be back.” These are the words that Luis Rodriguez hears as he is departing Los Angeles County Jail, where he was incarcerated for assaulting police officers and resisting arrest after he tried to intervene in the beating of a handcuffed young woman.  Instead of predicting a return behind bars, these words serve as an onus for Rodriguez to make more of his life.  Clawing his way out of street life and heroin addiction, Rodriguez embarks on a journey that will turn him into a successful journalist, community activist, praised poet, and most importantly, a family man.  

But Rodriguez’s journey is anything but smooth.  He must come to grips with his own struggles and failures as a husband and father while encountering his own father’s past demons.  He fights valiantly to prevent his son from succumbing to the gang lifestyle, but in the end will watch him be hauled away in handcuffs. Amidst the fights, addictions, blackouts, battles, an see more

More Books from this Author

Always Running
La Vida Loca (Always Running)

About the Author

Luis J. Rodriguez

Luis J. Rodriguez

The son of Mexican immigrants, Luis J. Rodriguez began writing in his early teens and has won national recognition as a poet, journalist, fiction writer, children's book writer, and critic. Currently working as a peacemaker among gangs, Rodriguez helped create Tia Chucha's Café & Centro Cultural, a multiarts, multimedia cultural center in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Visit him at