Monday, January 31, 2011

BURRO GENIUS by Victor Villaseñor

“Mañana es otro milagro de dios.”
Tomorrow is another miracle of God’s.
Mexican Dicho-Saying

BURRO GENIUS is a memoir about a man who in my estimation is extraordinary.

Set in the1940s, Victor Villaseñor recounts with passion and searing detail his inspiring, sometimes incredulous story of growing up Latino, during one of the darkest periods for minorities in Southern California's history.

As a native Southern-Californian and Mexican-American in her early forties, I'm disturbed that this period in history is one I didn't know, until recently, even existed. (See: Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California)

Although Villaseñor learns English quickly and has an aptitude for math, he falls behind his peers in school, flunking the third-grade twice, because hard as he tries, he cannot read. Not for either of the two reasons ascribed to him by his teachers and fellow classmates, because he's a stupid, lazy Mexican, but because he has dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder that goes undiagnosed until he's forty-four-years-old, when his own children experience similar problems at school.

In spite of all the pain, loss and heartache that Villaseñor endures in his childhood, he crafts a memoir that's the literary equivalent of a family's embrace, penning a story threaded with vibrant imagery, magical realism, Mexican folklore and an intriguing (much appreciated) perspective on gender roles within the family.

I don't want to ruin this story by disclosing too much of his journey, but I'll end by saying that twice in his life, mentors played a significant role in inspiring him and encouraging him, in spite of his mysterious disability, to write. He persisted, studied, wrote every chance he had, until after 256 rejections, he accomplished his goal.

BURRO GENIUS is about what it takes to make the seemingly impossible possible. No excuses.


Have you read any memoirs or fiction that have rocked you to your core recently? Or learned something about your ancestry's history that changed your world-view?

If so, I'd love hear about it.

"And I thanked mi papa who'd always said to me that we, los Indios, the Indians, were like weeds. That roses you had to water and give fertilizer or they'd die. But weeds, indigenous plants, you gave them nada-nothing; hell, you even poisoned them and put concrete over them, and those weeds would still break the concrete, reaching for the sunlight of God." -- Victor Villasenor, BURRO GENIUS 

UCSD Interview:

To learn more about Victor Villaseñor and the HBO mini-series due to start filming in the Spring of 2011 based on his other work, please visit his Author Site.

You can also check out his books at Barnes & Noble and Borders, among other book sellers.