Victor Villasenor, Author . Rayo $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-052612-2

Growing up in the 1940s on his family's gracious Southern California ranch, young Villaseñor envisions a cowboy's life, just like he's seen in western movies and learned from his loving but occasionally abrasive Mexican-born papá . 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 Villaseñor (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, Villaseñor tries to embody what made his brother such a hero. Despite all the humiliation, frustration and hardship Villaseñor 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)

Reviewed on: 06/07/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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