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California school system bans ex-gang member's memoir

By The Associated Press
11.12.04

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A book on gangs has been banned by the school district.

Always Running, a popular book about life in a street gang by reformed Los Angeles gangbanger and heroin user Luis Rodriguez, was pulled from schools this week after a parent complained about graphic passages depicting violence and sex.

Parent Anne Aziz-Cutner wrote the Santa Barbara Unified School District after learning the book was required reading for her Dos Pueblos High School 10th-grader.

“The book ... contains detailed descriptions of oral sexual acts and fornication ... and the rape of 12- to 14-year-old girls,” she wrote. “What exactly are you teaching our children?”

In 1999, “Always Running” was among the American Library Association’s list of 10 most-censored books in the United States. School districts in Fremont, Santa Rosa and San Jose, as well as districts in Illinois and Texas, have also banned the book.

“The reason why kids like the book is they don’t see their lives in any of the other books presented to them,” Rodriguez said Wednesday from his San Fernando home. “They’re looking for literature that has some meaning in their lives, and when they don’t have that, they usually don’t want to read.”

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara’s interim Superintendent Brian Sarvis read passages of the book.

“We’ve pulled the book districtwide,” he said. “It’s not an appropriate book to assign to students, and the teacher agrees.”


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