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Department ofModern Languages and Literatures

Francisco Jimenez

Francisco Jiménez

Professor Emeritus of Spanish

Biographical Information

Francisco Jimenez received his BA from Santa Clara University and an MA and Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Columbia University under a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. He holds honorary degrees from De Anza College and the University of San Francisco. He taught at Columbia University as an assistant professor for two years before coming to SCU.

He has published and edited several books on Mexican and Mexican American literature. His autobiographical books "The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child" and "Breaking Through" have been published in several languages and won national literary awards, including the Américas Book Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Pura Belpré Honor Book Award, and the Tomás Rivera Book Award. His two illustrated bilingual children’s books, "La Mariposa", and "The Christmas Gift/El regalo de Navidad" have also received numerous awards.

His four-book series—"The Circuit", "Breaking Through," "Reaching Out," "Taking Hold"--has been included in the American Library Association Booklist's 50 Best Young Adult Books of All Time. His stories have been published in over 100 textbooks and anthologies of literature. "The Circuit" and "Breaking Through" have been performed as plays by the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts and Santa Clara University.

A short 24-minute dramatic film titled "The Unbroken Sky" was adapted from portions of his award-winning memoir, Breaking Through. It was produced by Normandie Productions, a small independent film company, in 2022. Breaking Through and The Circuit have been adapted as plays and performed by the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Hancock College and at schools throughout the Central Coast of California. Santa Clara University Presents, Arts for Social Justice, performed both plays on campus and at numerous schools in the Silicon Valley. The Circuit was also performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh Scotland.

He is the recipient of the John Steinbeck Award and UCSB’s Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature.

He has served on various professional boards and commissions, including the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (10 years, two as chair), California Council for the Humanities (5 years, one as vice chair), Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WASC, 6 years), Santa Clara University Board of Trustees (6 years), the Far West Lab for Educational Research and Development (5 years), ALearn, the Leadership Board of the College of Arts and Sciences at SCU, and the Latino College Academy in San Jose.

In 2002 he was selected U.S. Professor of the Year by CASE and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and in 2015 a new school in Santa Maria, California was named in honor of his late brother and him: The Roberto and Dr. Francisco Jiménez Elementary School. He has been featured in Univision's Aqui y Ahora" and Telemundo and has received commendations for his work from the U.S. Congress, the California State Senate, and the governor of the State of Jalisco, Mexico.

He is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Santa Clara University.


Research Interests
  • Mexican historical novel
  • Mexican folklore-legends
  • Testimonial literature
  • Autobiography


  • 2009 Horary Doctorate of Humane Letters,  honoris causa, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California
  • 2008 Co-recipient (with Dr. Alma Garcia) of the 2008 Elizabeth B. Mason Small Project Award for "The Legacy Oral history Project of Mexican American Community Activists in San Jose, California, 1960-2000", given by the National Oral History Association.
  • Breaking Through and Senderos fronterizos selected by National Endowment for the Humanities and American Library Association for “We the People Bookshelf” Program for 2008
  • 2002 Selected Outstanding U.S. Professor of the Year by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
  • 2007 Resolution of Commendation from the California State Senate “for contributions to education”
  • Selected as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the Silicon Valley, San Jose Magazine, July 2007


  • The Revolution in Mexican Culture
  • Mexican American Literature
  • Advanced Spanish Conversation
  • Mexican Culture and Civilization
  • Colloquium: Latin American Literature & Culture
  • 20th-Century Mexican Literature in Translation
  • Advanced Spanish 1 & II
  • Intermediate Spanish
  • Elementary Spanish I & II


  • Cajas de cartón: Relations de la vida peregrina de un niño campesino. Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2023
  • Pasos firmes: De niñez migrante a la Universidad de Columbia, HarperCollins, 2022
  • "Under the Wire", The Penguin Book of Migrant Literature, edited by Dohra Adhmad, Pinguin Books, Random House, 2019
  • Stories Never to be Forgotten, English translation of Historias para tener presente. The Bilingual Press, 2015.
  • Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 
  • Reaching Out. Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged; Unabridged edition (October 23, 2012).
  • Breaking Through, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt EBooks, 2011.
  • Reaching Out. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt EBooks, 2011.
  • Cajas de Cartón y Senderos Fronterizos. Secretaria de Cultura, Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco, 2008.
  • Más allá de mí. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2009.
  • The Circuit: Kindle Edition, 1996.
  • Reaching Out. Houghton Mifflin, Co. 2008.
  • Ethnic Community Builders: Mexican Americans in Search of Justice and Power. AltaMira Pres (co-authored with Alma Garcia & Richard Garcia), 2007
  • Casse di cartone: Racconti dalla vita di un piccolo contadino emigrante. Italian Translation of The Circuit, published by Achille, 2007. Translation by Victor B. Vari and Nello Proia
  • Senderos fronterizos, Trade Division, Houghton Mifflin, Co., 2002
  • Cajas de Cartón: relatos de la vida peregina de un niño campesino. Boston: Trade Division, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.
  • Co-ed. with Gary D. Keller, Hispanics in the United States: An Anthology of Creative Literature, Vol. II.  Eastern Michigan University: The Bilingual Press, 1982.
  • Mosaico de la vida: prosa chicana, cubana y puertorriqueña New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.
  • Co-ed. with Gary D. Keller, Hispanics in the United States: An Anthology of Creative Literature, Vol I.  Eastern Michigan University: The Bilingual Press, 1980.
  • Editor, The Identification and Analysis of Chicano Literature.  New York: The Bilingual Press, 1979.
  • Co-author with Gary Keller and Nancy Sebastiani of Spanish Here and Now.  New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
  • Los episodios nacionales de Victoriano Salado Alvarez.  Mexico: Editorial Diana, 1974.