Dear Dr. Rios:
My name is Bill Luna. I am a high school sophomore at Fremont High. I have lived in Oakland my whole life. I have just finished chapter #8 of your autobiography Street Life. When I first started to read street life I thought it was going to be about discrimination and struggle. I soon learned of gang life and the trouble that came with it.
Up until now, we were annotating on how you would want us to feel by the way you described a scene or how a situation unfolded.
I feel conflicted/empathetic about different parts of your story that you shared in the chapters titled “The Snake Belt” and “A True Gangster.”
In chapter 7, when you said “He called his brothers, sisters, and parents in Mexico, and when the $500 phone bill arrived, he told my mother that maybe they should stop seeing each other. He left and we ended up with no phone” (page 35), I want you to know that I realize that this must have been infuriating, since he just came and left your family a big debt. Not to mention the fact that you were working already for just a dollar an hour. Also, you said “To make my mother proud, to thank her for keeping me alive and sheltered, I decided to go back to school” (page 37), and I thought heartwarming that you decided to go back to school, respecting your mother’s wishes and not letting her sacrifices.
Then I read chapter 8 where I read ”I fell to the ground and curled up like a roly-poly bug. I was feared for my life. I thought that after kicking me in the stomach and head the guys would take a knife and finish me off.”(page 40), and I realized that this was a terrifying experience as you thought they wanted to be friends and the next thing you know you’re wondering if you’ll walk away with your life. Lastly, you shared ”I felt badly for both guys. Our rival was dead for a trivial, petty, and worthless dispute, and Rambo had wasted his life for trying, too hard to back up his homey.” (page 49) and I want you to know that hope this doesn’t haunt you deeply as it wasn’t entirely your fault the situation escalated quickly.
Your book has been captivating.
Thank you for reading, and I hope to hear from you,