August, 1976. The young Lopez brothers, Jesse, fourteen, and Arturo, eleven, live with their mother, June, in an economically oppressed area of West Oakland.
Unemployed and barely able to feed her family, June is on the verge of complete breakdown. Behind with the rent and constantly terrorized by bill collectors, she is too proud to accept handouts, even welfare. The boys are forced to steal from grocery stores or collect discarded food from restaurant trash receptacles.
Of the two brothers, it is Jesse who is striking and inventive. June, however, misinterprets this imagination and energy as rebellion and punishes him accordingly. For the most part, Arturo is spared from his mother's punishments. Clearly, it is Arturo she favors.
When Jesse steals the bike of the neighborhood gang leader, Arturo is the one who gets caught and beaten to a pulp. June banishes Jesse from the house and sends him to his Uncle Victor in San Francisco, under whose non-guidance Jesse is exposed to substance abuse, pornography, and prostitution. He finds his own place through connections he makes with Vietnamese gang members. This marks his full entry into the criminal underworld.
Without Jesse's ever-reliable energy around, Arturo must develop his own resourcefulness for getting through each day. His efforts are dedicated to healing the split between the brothers and within the family. He, in effect, helps his mother keep the family together. She, in turn, is able to recognize through him the bad influence of Uncle Victor and the mistake she made in separating the brothers.
BICYCLES AND BRIDGES is a story of a family's struggle to survive and to find meaning beyond a reduced existence.
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