“DETOURED My Journey from Darkness to Light “ A memoir by Jesse De La Cruz- a ReViEws4theReVoLuTion Book review

Tiny - Posted on 20 September 2012

“DETOURED My Journey from Darkness to Light “

A memoir by Jesse De La Cruz - a ReView4theRevolution Book Review


“Los Hombres No Lloran” “Man Don’t Cry”


These words echoed in my mind as I read Jesse De La Cruz’s memoir “DETOURED My Journey from Darkness to Light”. Jesse shares in his memoir how these words are still are used in our communities by men to cope with pain, anger and sadness.



Jesse was raised and made in the barrios of califaz.  At twelve he began a journey that led him to become a convict, heroin drug addict and gang member who served approximately thirty years at California prisons like Folsom and San Quentin.


Jesse shares in his memoir his experiences in a real and intimate way of what the Vida Loca gave him, but also has taken away from him---friends, family and community. Jesse speaks about the demons one faces in the Vida Loca in real raw uncut truth. He speaks of our broken communities, the false notion of what is to be a man in our machista culture.


Jesse was born with two strikes against him--brown boy in the America and the child of migrant parents who moved with the seasons to work on the fields of Califaz to raise their family; living in broken communities and having to work in the fields as kid and go to school at the same time.  He speaks of his experiences with racist teachers and a broken, disconnected educational system. He speaks about the beauty of family but also about growing up without knowing who his biological father was until later in life.


At the age of three Jesse was diagnosed with polio. Jesse writes about the difficulties growing up with this disease, spending much of his childhood in hospitals and therapy, and kids making fun of him. Jesse was tested many times to prove himself to others that he was no different than anyone and demanded respect even if it was obtained with violence. Jesse grew up defending himself with violence in a world and system that attacks black and brown youth constantly and fighting the lack of understanding in this society of disabled folks.


Jesse at a very young age show his courage and fierceness by never given up on his well being, in a passage in the memoir Jesse shares


“Los hombres no lloran.You have to be a man, son”

I wanted to please mama badly, so I held back my tears and stuffed my agony inside, but the truth was the pain was so unbearable I thought I was going to die. I frequently asked my mother when I would be going home, but she always gave me the same response.

“You’re too sick right now, son”


Been raised by single mother myself, I understand Jesse’s mother in preparing young Jesse to a world that kills, incarcerating black and brown people everyday.


In a chapter Jesse shares how he struggled with alcohol and drugs addictions, describing in detail how he self-medicated to fill the emptiness that many of us carry in our gut and the difficult and long path to sobriety.


As I was reading this memoir, at times, I was forced to stop reading, to fight back my own tears, thinking about my own childhood growing up in a broken family and in communities flooded with liquors stores, violence and medicating one self to numb the pain or the emptiness in our gut as Jesse describes it.


This book is not only a memoir, but a self-help tool for our brothers and sisters who are trying to sober up and trying to avoid the path the Jesse once walked. This memoir helped me fight my own demons and gave me the strength to keep struggling knowing that this homie Jesse De La Cruz, who had been through worst shit than I had, made it out alive.


Jesse also breaks down how the justice system intentionally does not provide the help for ex-offenders transitioning from prison to the outside.  Jesse took his knowledge and wisdom and founded The Jonah Foundation, which provides sober living housing for ex-offenders to resist the unjust system we live in and to give ex-offenders an opportunity to turn their lives around.


After his final release from prison Jesse De La Cruz enrolled in college, graduating with a baccalaureate degree in sociology in 2001 and a Masters in social work degree from California State University, Stanislaus in 2003.  He is currently working in his Ed.D.


Sign-up for POOR email!