I received Lady Q, The Rise and Fall of a Latin Queen to review as part of Condor Book Tours and it was a very difficult read on numerous levels. Authors Reymundo Sanchez and Sonia Rodriguez were former gang members of the Latin King/Queen Nation of the Humboldt Park area in Chicago, Illinois. It is the bloody, raw experience of gang life, a fraught life on the streets of Chicago amid drugs, violence, unprotected sex, and family dysfunction. A life in which children experience a bitter and distant, if not absent, family connection, young boys and girls yearn for personal warmth and acceptance and do not find it within their home, and the adolescent experience is that of a violation in order to belong and feel protected. The life of immature girls abused by the sexual predators among their relatives and finally giving into the sexual advances from the males in their gang families, all completely unrelated to human love or nurture. And the dysfunctional cycle goes on and on and on without hope of closure. A most difficult read indeed, almost to the point of disbelief.
It would be incredible if not for my own cursory experience living in a gang neighborhood such as that of Lady Q’s Humboldt Park. I had a close friend, Johnny, who was a leader of my neighborhood’s gang family and we would talk in length of the differences between him and me. The one chief difference, family. My family was not born into this neighborhood, my family traveled through this neighborhood from another country in search of a better life, work, and education in the US. My family, however dysfunctional it may seem, has hope and is firm in its belief that greater life choices lie ahead for the younger generation through work and education. Alternatively, although he rarely talked in depth about his family, experiences he guarded sturdily, I sensed hopelessness and surrender to the life that had been destined to his family. A sense that I disliked and with which I disagreed. I therefore attempted to convince him that he possessed the capacity to move out and live whatever life he wished, going as far as to ask him to join me in my plan to move out of town. He, in turn, took off his rosary, one which he had made and worn daily, and handed it to me saying, “This has protected me for some time, you will need this more than I where you are going.” I could not understand what could possibly make him think that my life would need Divine protection more than his. I have carried Johnny’s rosary throughout my life’s journey and often think of him as I make my way through tough experiences, knowing that it could never compare to what he has been living. A tough read indeed, yet one that must be made in order to help break the desperate gang cycle.
About the Book
A former member of the violent Latin Kings street gang, Reymundo Sanchez brings his hard-earned experience and insight to bear on the issue of young women in gangs, tracing the heartbreaking transformation of a bright young girl named Sonia Rodriguez–who tried desperately to avoid the drugs, violence, and gang members that infested her family and neighborhood–into the ruthless and powerful Latin Queen leader known as “Lady Q.” From throwing punches and running drugs to getting shot at and doing time in prison, Lady Q follows the same dangerous, dead-end road as so many young men in gangs, until she realizes that saving herself and her children means changing course before it’s too late.