1. “Cry child, for those without tears have a grief which never ends.” What does this Mexican proverb mean? How might it relate to the book based on what you’ve read so far? Consider the way in which tears and crying serve as a recurring motif throughout the chapter (i.e. the fact that Rano never cries and the legend of la Llorona).
2. Based on Luis’ own family, what can you determine about the dynamics of the traditional Mexican family unit and the roles assigned to its individual members? Consider gender roles, for instance and how these play into the lives of the individual family members.
3. How might the Rodriguez family’s experience in the United States serve as an indictment of the American Dream and popular notions of a great ethnic “melting pot”?
4. “Thee Impersonations,” the club or “clica” Rodriguez creates with other boys is “how (they) wove something out of the threads of nothing.” Rodriguez also goes on to say it “was born of necessity.” What does he mean by this? How is the entire episode representative of the way certain youth join gangs? What motivates or drives them to do so?
5. How is the cholo (the Mexican-American gang member) a product of his socio-economic conditions? How do these lead to his creation?
6. On page 49, Rano begins to find success in school. He soon “stop(s) being Rano or even Jose” and “one day be(comes) Joe.” What is the significance behind this evolution? What does the name change imply? What assumptions can we make about Rano’s changing attitudes, particularly in regards to his cultural identity?
7. How might the greater American society be viewed as responsible for the creation of its gangs? Are people products of their circumstances and environment or are they entirely responsible for their fate? Is there such a thing as free will or are we merely reacting to our circumstances and environment? When answering, use passages from the book to cite as evidence. Answer in at least one paragraph.
1. Why do you think Luis tried to commit suicide early on in the chapter? Discuss his possible reasons.
2. How is Mark Keppel High School a microcosm of American society? In other words, how does the social structure of the school reflect American society?
3. Luis points to the socio-economic similarities and parallels between Mexican-Americans and African-Americans in Los Angeles. What are some of these?
4. Discuss the irony behind the fact that the “Anglos” in the book are so eager to celebrate the “Fiesta Days” event commemorating the San Gabriel areas’ Spanish-Mexican heritage. Describe the difference between how the whites celebrated these days as opposed to the Mexicans.
5. What does the “tradition” at Mark Keppel High School comprise of? What underlying tensions in the community is it a reflection of?
6. Luis breaks up with his girlfriend Payasa when she “became too much like the walking dead.” Explain what this means. What do you think drove Payasa to be in such a state most of the time?
7. On page 113, Luis declares that by 1970, he “felt disjointed” and “out of balance,” tired of “just acting and reacting.” He then goes on to state that he wanted to “flirt with depth of mind,” learn more about his “world” and “society” and particularly “about what to do.” What does Luis mean by all of this? What does he mean by feeling “disjointed” and “out of balance”? What does he mean by “flirt[ing] with depth of mind” and learning “about what to do”?
8. Interpret the following quote from page 113:
“I had certain yearnings at the time, which a lot of us had, to acquire authority in our own lives in the face of police, joblessness and powerlessness.”
What yearnings do Luis and the other youth have exactly? What type of “authority” is he talking about? What about the “powerlessness”? How do these feelings lead into gang life?
9. In what ways does Chente Ramirez of the Bienvenidos Community Center influence Luis?