Book Reviews

The redemption of Jesse De La Cruz is almost Biblical in scope; an epic story of a life gone wildly astray; a Prodigal Son-like squandering of intelligence and good will. Milton would recognize this story as one of sin and a heroic life regained. St. Paul—an admitted great slave to sin who eventually repented—would know this story of resurrection, and survival of several imprisonments. And of course, there is the 4th century memoirist St. Augustine who confessed his sins and chronicled his spiritual awakening in the most famous memoir in Western Civilization. In my opinion, Jesse De La Cruz’s memoir is a 21st Century addition to this long tradition of stories about detours and recoveries. The question for you the reader, is a riddle: Do you review the life of Jesse De La Cruz through the eyes of a forward-looking boy habituated to hate and violence, who eventually disappeared into the underworld for three decades? Or do we review his narrative from the vantage point of the present, looking back through the eyes of a man, severely mindful as he lives a moral life today? In other words, is Jesse De La Cruz a long time bad man done good in the end? Or is he a good man who acted against his conscience for many years? I prefer to see him the second way. But you judge for yourself. Your journey in the coming pages will reveal Jesse De La Cruz’s compelling life confronting every squalid day with the same first intensity that he confronted his sublime and thorough change.–JOE LOYA, AUTHOR OF THE MAN WHO OUTGREW HIS PRISON CELL: CONFESSIONS OF A BANK ROBBER

Jesse’s new memoir reads easily— it flows, it makes sense, one scene leaps to the other, developing a story that is both informative and redemptive. It’s a story told by a mature storyteller, and the reason the story is so important is that it’s a template for understanding so many of the ills plaguing society today. He gives us a lens to look through, that is, his lived experience is laden with recipes and solutions to our societal dilemma. His memoir addresses Chicano/Mexican culture, the disastrous prison mess we find ourselves in, racism, crime, family, and education. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the world we live in, especially of those people most ignored, Mexicans and Chicanos. Read on—you won’t be disappointed. —JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA, AUTHOR OF A GLASS OF WATER.

Out of the gaps, empties, and darkness of our lives can emerge the most compelling stories, the kind that redeem, bring us home, and teach us that all people have transformative qualities if given half a chance. Jesse De La Cruz spent decades behind bars, on drugs, in the grip of gangs and self-destruction. His powerful memoir helps us understand the tattered threads of loss and brokenness that can make up the tapestry of any life, although in this case these include clarity, hope, and a dream that never died. Bravo to Jesse for the courage to live this out—and the courage to write this so well. —LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ, AUTHOR OF ALWAYS RUNNING, LA VIDA LOCA, GANG DAYS IN L.A.

Jesse De La Cruz’ memoir chronicles a long journey too few folks survive. And in his telling we learn more about the growth of prisons and their terrible effects on the American family. Jesse’s voice is urgent and his story is a true California tale. A must read. —JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ, AUTHOR OF EAST SIDE STORIES: GANG LIFE IN EAST L.A.

Jesse’s life is truly an inspirational and riveting story of triumph over tragedy that must be told.Mr. De La Cruz shows us all that turning your life around is possible even when the obstacles seem insurmountable. —ANTHONY V. DISOMMA J.D., RETIRED JUDGE