Dear Dr. Rios,

My name is Christy-Lynn Lagula.  I am 16 years old, and I live in Oakland, Ca. I currently go to Fremont High School. I have just finished chapter 8 of your autobiography Street Life. When I first started reading your autobiography, I did not think it was going to be as good and interesting as it is. I thought it was going to be a long boring autobiography, but the more I kept reading it, it got more interesting. I think your autobiography caught my attention because I can relate to some things you went through and how you felt. Also, we come from the same town, so you know how it is living in Oakland, or the Bay area in general.


While I been reading your book I have been doing little projects about it. So far I’ve done blog posts talking about some your chapters on youth voices. I have also been doing imagery annotations on all the chapters I read. Last but not least I did a couple of audio recordings reading paragraphs from your book using tone and inflection.


I feel bad 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 eachother”(Rios, 36). I want you to know that you are very strong to stick around to help and support your mother the best way you can. It must have been hard for you to see your mother go through rough relationships and being powerless because you could not do anything about it because you were young and a child. It also must have been hard on your mom because she did not even have enough to keep yours and hers on. Also, you said, “Afraid of being beaten, I told my mother the truth; I had been working to help pay the bills” (Rios, 36), and I thought that was terrifying and hard to tell your mother because you knew that her hope and dream was for you to get your education and finish school and all you wanted to do was help her. I understand and respect you Victor for trying to take things into your hands so you would not see your mother struggling as much.


Then I read chapter 8 where I read, “I was feared for my life” (Rios, 40) and I want you to know that is that I would have been scared for my life also because you were getting beat up for no reason. LITERALLY! That must have been frustrating that did not even see it coming so did not have the chance to even decide to fight back. Lastly, you shared “On the other hand, these guys offered protection that no other group of people had ever offered me, no my teachers, not my mother, not the police” (Rios, 41) and I realized when you are in a gang it does seem like everyone has each other’s back because whenever one is in trouble you see the rest of them. I also learned that people in gangs connect more because they had a rough past and came from broken homes and they all want the same thing which is family they can depend on and money.


I want you to know that I really enjoy your book so far and I am excited to read the rest.


Thank you for reading, and I hope to hear from you,


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March 1, 2018 5:03 pm

I really liked your letter to Dr. Rios because it explained exactly why you thought his book, and life, was an accomplishment. It seems like he has been through some difficult times and worked his best to reach his potential, and you have found that message in the book. You might enjoy reading, “Tattoos on the Heart” which is a book about a man who helps people who have been in gangs recover and begin a new life. It seems like these books have a lot in common.

February 20, 2018 7:49 pm

I should read this book! It sounds like Victor Rios has been through his fair share of hardships, for sure. I just came back from the Bay Area this weekend! It is interesting the contrast between the Berkeley area and the Oakland area. It almost felt like there was a level of segregation, where the more privileged white folk stood on one side, the few well-off minorities in the middle, and the lower-class minorities on the other side. It was a little strange walking through whitewashed sidewalks and emerging on an entirely different path in just minutes. I am lucky enough to never have feared for my life as a result of violence, since I was born to a middle class family in a suburban area with little-to-no gang violence. Gang violence doesn’t scare me so much as it saddens me. There are arbitrary fights happening everywhere, money going to one side when it should be going to another, and people being hurt for seemingly no reason. I wish, honestly, that there was an answer to all of the chaos in the world. This article from Psychology Today: … has an interesting take on world peace, which pertains to both a global scale and an inner-city micro scale. If everyone were working toward actively bettering themselves, rather than actively worsening others, the world would collectively build each other up, almost by accident. Self-bolstering, then, is the key to achieving peace among nations, tribes, gangs, and any other kind of enemy, provided, of course, that it is not driven by greed or hunger for power. Self-betterment for the pure sake of being happy, if sought after by all, would balance the non-equilibrium.

I’d like to hear what you think.

Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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