Jesse De La Cruz has written an important memoir chronicling his journey through and out of the prison system. His hope is that others will learn from his mistakes. Detoured is published by Barking Rooster Entertainment, which was co-founded in 2009 by author Luis Rodriguez with the intent of supporting the creation of original content. Detoured will be available on Amazon later this month.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you have probably noticed that we are lucky to have Amy Cheney among our reviewers. Amy works with incarcerated teens, and she is always looking for books that will speak to them. Sometimes I send her books to review, but often as not she discovers these gems herself. For more, take a look at her list of the 2011 best books for incarcerated teens in yesterday’s SLJ Teen Newsletter, titled “Top Book Choices for Youth in Detention.”
Adult/High School–In this well-written and thoughtful memoir, De La Cruz details his descent into criminality, heroin addiction, and prison between the ages of 14 and 42. Born to a 13-year-old mother, he started life in a shack next to the Texas slaughterhouse where his grandfather worked. Stricken with polio at age three, he spent several frightening years incapacitated and often alone in the hospital, where he learned the coping skills that are necessary in being tough on the streets: an ability to repress fear, anger, and sadness. Determined not to be bullied as a result of his polio-stricken foot, he became a bully himself, aggressively attacking at the slightest provocation. De La Cruz spends a good portion of his book outlining honestly and with insightful specifics his transition from prison. He earned his Masters degree, obtained sole custody of his daughter, and found employment assisting parolees with sobriety and housing. He includes an incarceration timeline of events on the first page and an account of what happened to all the characters on the last page. Mentored by Joe Loya (Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber [HarperCollins, 2005]) and published by author Luis Rodriguez’s press (Always Running [Touchstone, 2005]), this is an important book about the Chicano “urban” experience. There are a huge number of Latino (and other) teens who will be eager to read, devour, and understand the making of this gangster into a man.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA