Standing at the podium, Victor Villaseñor looked at the group of educators amassed before him, and his mind flooded with childhood memories of humiliation and abuse at the hands of his teachers. He became enraged. With a pounding heart, he began to speak of these incidents. When he was through, to his great disbelief he received a standing ovation. Many in the audience could not contain their own tears.
So begins the passionate, touching memoir of Victor Villaseñor. Highly gifted and imaginative as a child, Villaseñor coped with an untreated learning disability (he was finally diagnosed, at the age of forty-four, with extreme dyslexia) and the frustration of growing up Latino in an English-only American school in the 1940s. Despite teachers who beat him because he could not speak English, Villaseñor clung to his dream of one day becoming a writer. He is now considered one of the premier writers of our time.
Growing up in the 1940s on his family's gracious Southern California ranch, young Villasenor envisions a cowboy's life, just like he's seen in western movies and learned from his loving but occasionally abrasive Mexican-born pap . Reality, however, finds him in the unwelcome company of an American school system where he doesn't fit in and is ostracized thanks to his undiagnosed dyslexia and limited English. Throughout this spirited memoir, novelist and nonfiction writer Villasenor (who has chronicled his family history in Rain of Gold; Wild Steps of Heaven; Thirteen Senses; etc.) faces an entourage of abusive teachers and embittered classmates who chip away at his confidence, leading him to the brink of adopting a personal philosophy of violence-for-respect. He seeks support in the strength of his close-knit family, especially his brother Joseph. But when Joseph dies of a rare, unexplained disease, Villasenor tries to embody what made his brother such a hero. Despite all the humiliation, frustration and hardship Villasenor encounters throughout his youth, he maintains an astonishingly positive and compassionate attitude. His retelling of sometimes humorous, sometimes chilling childhood experience is at once painful and gratifying. He imaginatively and poetically remembers his tumultuous childhood with the simplicity of a child and the introspection of a sage. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Margret McBride Literary Agency. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.