Thus begins Children of War, the true story of Mike Rodriguez, a young man who chronicles the torture and repercussions of childhood physical and sexual abuse, an inadequate child welfare system, alcoholism, heroin addiction, and multiple incarcerations. Written by career educators Deana Ruggieri and Tom Nelson, Mike’s jolting take is harrowing and heart-breaking, but most of all it is timely given the onslaught of abuse and addiction cases that dominate today’s headlines.
In his own words, Mike tells what it’s like to be treated like an animal, beaten senseless by a tree switch, forced to sit on the floor. Mike describes what it’s like to be terrified to live in his own home yet even more frightened to leave because of what might happen to his younger brother Frank if left unprotected. He relates the shame of the sexual abuse they suffer at the hands of so called “friends of the family” before Mike’s life becomes a revolving door of orphanages, foster homes, jails, prisons, and halfway houses. He depicts what it’s like to find himself undereducated, homeless and pushing a shopping cart on the streets of Los Angeles; how he becomes and alcoholic and heroin addict, labeled as hopeless by society; how it feels to be despised by strangers who know nothing about him and his talents and struggles.
Children of War is envisioned as a platform for youth to share their stories and seek professional help. It is designed to inspire victims of abuse and addiction to start writing in an effort to heal. Mike Rodriguez’s story was featured in two documentary films, Skid Row and Without A Home. As a survivor of child abuse, Mike worked with struggling youth through GROWTH Foundation and the LAPD’s Juvenile Impact Program. Mike also served Skid Row as an outreach worker through the Americorp program to help other addicts off the streets and into treatment.
A portion of each sale of Children of War: The Mike Rodriguez Story is dedicated to a scholarship fund in Mike’s name to help youth achieve their personal and professional goals. If one child reads Mike’s story, picks up pen and composition book and starts writing, Mike’s dream will have come true.