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Nuestra Familia: 10 years inside one of California's powerful gangs




Strawberry fields in Salinas, California
Strawberry fields in Salinas, California
Ken Lund / flickr Creative Commons

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A wailing mother in a hospital room. A broccoli field at dawn. A teenage boy trying to break with his past and attend college.

These are the scenes captured by journalist Julia Reynolds in her new book, "Blood in the Fields: Ten Years Inside California's Nuestra Familia Gang."

Reynolds spent more than a decade exploring the inner workings of the violent Nuestra Familia gang in Salinas, a town known more as the birthplace of celebrated author John Steinbeck or the setting for key events in the farm workers movement.

It's a story she felt compelled to tell.

"I was repulsed by this story originally," said Reynolds. "I was the editor of a Latino magazine and we were celebrating Latino culture. The idea of gang members was this living stereotype that I wanted nothing to do with."

But soon she began to notice something in Salinas.

"A lot of young kids were dying," she recalled. In the farm cities along California's northern coast, shootings and revenge hits were tearing communities apart.

"I finally decided that as a journalist and living in the area, it was my responsibility to face this issue and see what was going on," said Reynolds.

So she embarked on a journey that took her inside the lives of the gang's top leaders, operating from Pelican Bay State Prison, to its foot soldiers and recruits on the streets of Salinas, recording both the mundane and the chilling details of Nuestra Familia. She also explores the law enforcement agents and their battle against the gang.

Read an excerpt from the prologue below:

Blood in the Fields: Ten Years Inside California's Nuestra Familia Gang

Excerpted with permission from Blood in the Fields: Ten Years Inside California's Nuestra Familia Gang by Julia Reynolds. Published by Chicago Review Press.