Pale Wire (Popscene)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Unmaking of a Latin King

Tonight I finished off Once a King, Always a King: The Unmaking of a Latin King. It's the second memoir by a former member of Chicago's Latin Kings who writes under the pseudonym Reymundo Sanchez.

The first, entitled My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King, detailed Reymundo's youth, growing up as a Latin King in Chicago, and the violent events that shaped his life. It's filled with violent, sexy (and, in my opinion, often dubious) tales from the streets. It concludes with Rey being "beat out" of the Kings.

Once a King picks up where the first book, which was a modest commercial and critical success, left off and follows Reymundo in his post-gang life as he struggles to find his place in the world. He's having trouble keeping clean and is in and out of jail. He falls in love, attempts to reconcile with the family, fails at both, leaves town, returns home, leaves town, all that noise.

I subscribe to the theory that a certain percentage of all autobiographical works are bullshit, but here my BS detector was ringing more often than I'm comfortable with. I'm told that these books are having a positive effect in some of the West Side schools where teachers have picked them up as an anti-gang measure. That makes me want to forgive things like Rey portraying literally every female he ever encountered in his life as wanting to fuck his brains out, but it's tough. Should it bother me? Let's assume that there are lies in this supposedly non-fiction book. Does it matter that the author's lying if, despite (or, perhaps, due to) these lies, the book helps keep kids out of gangs?