“I was in prison before I was even born.” So begins the story of Victor Rios a high school dropout, gang member and three-time felon by 15. When a teacher’s quiet persistence, a mentor’s moral conviction, and his best friend’s murder converge, Rios’ path takes an unlikely turn. Two decades later Rios, by then a 36-year-old tenured UC professor, author and national thought leader on the school to prison pipeline, gets a call. “Hey, hotshot Professor.” It’s Martín Flores, Rios’ high school mentor, who Rios hasn’t heard from in 15 years. “I need you to come to Watts and work with my kids.” It’s a make it or break it moment for these youth, Flores, who directs a program serving 16- to 24-year-olds who haven’t finished high school, warns. “We either get them on the right path now, or we lose them to the system.” Woven with archival material over 25 years to Rios’ own troubled adolescence, and including the contemporary story of this fateful summer in Watts, The Pushouts examines crucial questions of race, class, power, and the American dream at a particularly urgent time.