Barnes & Noble, B. Daltons and other fine bookstores. Rodriguez's message comes out loud and clear through is story.
By Jay Peeples
Four years ago, Art Rodriguez knew nothing about grammar, spelling or typing, but he had a story to tell. Today, he is the accomplished author of "East Side Dreams," his personal account of growing up in East San Jose and in life.
Rodriguez's tale takes readers through his trouble with the law, stay within the confines of California Young Authority facilities, life revelations and successful foray into the waste disposal industry. "East Side Dreams" is Rodriguez's way of giving back to the community in which he was raised.
"When I wrote 'East Side Dreams,' I wanted my book to be an inspiration to people," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes people think they're not going to make it. I wanted to give them my life up to now and show them they could.
Rodriguez, 49 said he suffered difficult times growing up with a strict father who believed in corporal punishment. Many short stories within "East Side Dreams" revolve around the relationship with his father and the fear that fueled it.
However, much of the book revolves around the time spent under the supervision of the California Young Authority. This resulted from an assault with intent to commit murder conviction when he was a junior in high school. Three years later he was released and unsure of what he wanted, except that he didn't want to go back to prison ever again.
In 1985, Rodriguez started Number "1"Disposal, a waste management business in San Jose. At its inception, Rodriguez had only one truck. Today he has four trucks and 150 dumpsters in Milpitas and San Jose. He also started Dream House Press, a book publishing company which now distributes "East Side Dreams." Rodriguez said he started the company to publish his next book, "The Monkey Box," as well as to publish other books from people in San Jose. "My goal is to publish other local writers," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez first learned how type four years ago which led to writing short stories. He wrote 20 pages and gave them to his wife, Flora, who told him he needed to learn spelling, grammar and writing.
"All the words were misspelled and the stories were just one long run-on sentence," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez checked out books on grammar and writing and began writing again. He wrote 50 pages but then lost them due to a computer error. It was at this time Rodriguez enrolled in a basic grammar class at Independence High School, but dropped out after realizing he already knew the material the class was learning. The third time he stared writing, his wife edited his work and the outcome was what is now "East Side Dreams."
There were many reasons Rodriguez wrote about his life.
"It's hard for kids to imagine older people used to be like them," he said. "Kids only look at right now, but when they read my book, they see my whole life. Then, hopefully, they will think about where they are going to be later."
Rodriguez took special steps to ensure "East Side Dreams' would be published without any profanity. He said he wanted to keep the book clean so that children could read and enjoy it.
"Kids write me letters thanking me for keeping it clean so they can read it," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez has spoken at various schools, including Silver Creek and Pioneer high schools,. His message is important - "It's never to late to change."
"I feel like I'm paying back the community," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez still lives in East San Jose with his wife and has eight kids. "East Side Dreams is available at Amazon.com,
East Side Dreams
The East Side of San Jose, California, that is. This is the follow-up book to the Monkey Box. Rodriguez writes the story of his childhood with so much warmth – actually, maybe the word “warmth” is a bit exaggerated. After all, much of it was spent in difficult circumstances, such as dealing with his somewhat dictatorial father from when his mother was divorced. But his
fondest memories were those of hanging out with his older brother and his friends in the neighborhood. He distinctly remembers borrowing is mother’s 1956 Chevy to cruise around town. But his was also a classic case of hanging out with the wrong crowd. During the course of his childhood, he had had previous minor run-ins with the law, mainly for drinking while driving, but
the police just counted it as childish mischief and ordered the beer cans removed.
One day, the author and his friends were driving home from the Jose Theatre where they would hang out every Sunday. Suddenly, a cop stopped them. It turned out that the car they were driving was stolen. This landed everyone in Juvenile Hall. It was in their cells that the older inmates in their 50’s and 60s tended to treat the younger ones very well, bringing food to their cells, and the like. Even though life was not a bed of roses in the California Youth Authority, Rodriguez looks back with fondness on his
childhood and the friends he grew up with. His incarceration in Juvenile Hall was actually a blessing in disguise. The strained relationship he had with his father slowly became closer. Today he owns a successful business. Rodriguez does a good job of creating a typical Chicano neighborhood in California during the sixties. This is an inspirational story and commentary on how someone turned around a bad situation for the better."
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By Art Rodriguez. Dream House Press, paper, $12.95. An emotion-packed novel that captures the power of love in old Mexico and follows it to California. Rodriguez dug into his rich family history, flushed out riveting characters and wrapped this tale in reality. He begins the story nearly 200 years ago in Spain, where readers learn that a priest has fathered a daughter. They flee to Mexico where the padre arranges for a family of a doctor in Chiapas village to raise his daughter Lydia. Along comes a handsome worker and love strikes hard. Francisco "Chico" Rodriguez and Lydia know that, one day, they will start a life together. Disagreements develop over respect, pride and honor, and they soon erupt. The doctor and a mob club Chico nearly to death. Then comes the guns. Chico and his intended manage to escape to another town and marriage plans are set. "Tomorrow Lydia will be my wife and there will be nothing (the doctor) can do!" But questions burn the mind. What of the disrepute brought by Lydia's father the priest? Why did the doctor so zealously seek to prevent this marriage? What's this about Lydia's large inheritance? Yet another showdown develops in the new village, but police prevent a massacre. And the couple begins a new life with six children, the oldest of which is a strapping son. The author thrust readers into revolutionary activities that fuel emotions in 1916, and reveals the contents of the Monkey box that sat unopened for so many years. Inside, papers that make this family special and add even more mystery to this evolutionary story.
"Now the whole review"
A very touching story about the author's family history beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century in Chiapas, Mexico, filled with an atmospheric warmth for his Hispanic heritage. In the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, Rodriguez tells the ture love story of his great-grandparents, Francisco and Lydia, and Lydia's guardians' efforts to keep them apart. Lydia, born in Spain to a wealthy and prominent family, was the illegitimate daughter of a priest and a young lady that remains nameless. Fleeing from
his family's ridicule, and disgrace, the priest and his daughter fled to Mexico to the state of Chiapas where Lydia grew up. She was left in the care of a local doctor and his wife who were ling-time friends of the family. Her father later left her, never to be seen or heard from again. However, he left her some family documents that were stored in a monkey box, so that she
would always know where she came from.
Francisco Rodriguez was a ranch and Lydia's guardians strongly disapproved of her developing any sort of relationship with a common laborer. But they did, and eventually they got married. As time went on and during the lifetime of the next generation, the monkey box along with all of Lydia's family documents were destroyed and lost forever. When their son Romulo grew up, the married a young lady named Luzita. Their son Jose eventually moved
away from Mexico and made for himself a new life in San Jose, California where the author was born.
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