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Francisco Jiménez: writer, teacher, academic administrator
by Matt Meier
Francisco Jiménez, writer, teacher, academic administrator. Born in San Pedro Tlaquepaque, now a suburb of Guadalajara, Francisco Jiménez crossed the border into California withh his family without documentation when he was four. As a young child Francisco worked in migrant agriculture with the rest of the family. Because of his limited understanding of English and irregular school attendance he was labeled mentally retarded, but he persevered, began learning English, and continued his education.
When Francisco was 14, he was taken out of his Santa Maria Junior High School classroom by Immigration and Naturalization Service officers. The entire Jiménez family was deported to Mexico but soon were able to return with proper papers. Francisco resumed his studies and worked part-time as a school janitor to help support the family. An outstanding student, he graduated from high school in 1962 with three university scholarship offers. While attending Santa Clara University he became a U.S. citizen and continued his outstanding scholastic record, graduating with honors and a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. He then understood graduate studies at Columbia University in New York, receiving his Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American literature in 1972.
Having taught Spanish at Columbia while working on his doctorate, Jiménez now began teaching it and its literature at Santa Clara University. His ability, dedication, and hard work enabled him to rise from assistant to full professor by 1981 in which year he was also named to the University Board of Trustees. Five years later he was honored with Sanfilippo Chair. From 1981 to 1990 he served as director of the division of Arts and Humanities. From there he moved to associated vice-president for academic affairs, a position he held until 1994 when he stepped down to chair the department of modern languages and to devote more time to his writing.
In 1973 Jiménez was a co-founder of the Bilingual Review and later joined the editorial board of the Bilingual Review Press. As a writer he is best known for his literary criticism and his semi-autobiographical vignettes of migrant worker life as seen by a child. His highly regarded short stories have been published and reprinted in English, Spanish, and Chinese in numerous textbooks and literary anthologies. In addition to his short stories, he is the author or editor of a number of books including Los episodios nacionales de Victoriano Salado Alvarez, 1974; The Identification and Analysis of Chicano Literature, 1979; Poverty and Social Justice: Critical Perspectives, ed., 1987. His book The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, 1997 won seven awards; his book La Mariposa was a Smithsonian Notable Book; and his bilingual children's book Christmas Gift / El regalo de Navidad, 2000 was an American Library Association Notable Book. His most recent work, Breaking Through, 2001 has received rave notices.