A former L.A. gang member describes his experiences in that world, recounting the sense of security and power found in a gang and the grim reality of violence and poverty. Reprint. 60,000 first printing. Tour. NYT.
Every spiky anecdote from a life of guns, razors, uppers, downers, glue, heroin, sex, and early death supports this former gang member's view of the violence as collective suicide. That Rodriguez's memoir takes place...before the '92 L.A. riots only makes this beautifully written and politically astute account more compelling.
Nevertheless, the subject matter is extraordinarily interesting and the book is definitely worth reading. Luis Rodriguez's story is an incredible account of the perseverance of the human spirit against great adversity. Just don't expect to come away from the novel with a much greater understanding of gang mentality than you can get from reading the newspaper.