Burro Genius: A Memoir
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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.
help my brother José to get well.” That night I didn’t dream of playing games of marbles. No, instead, I dreamed of all the things my brother had instructed me. “You’re going to have to be very careful to not become a show-off or make fun of people who don’t know how to play as well as you…. In fact, papa told me that Duel, his friend from Montana, explained to him, that if you get cocky or show off too much, people will turn against you and then you’ll have no one to play with. So what do you
don’t know why, but I now asked, “Joseph, are you dying?” He looked at me straight in the eyes. “Yes, Mundo,” he said, “I’m dying.” I began to cry. “But, Chavaboy, I don’t want you dying!” “Look, you asked, and I told you,” he said. “Yes,” I said. “But…but when I died, I could see that it was still up to me to stay dead or come back alive.” “Look,” said my brother, “I’m glad that you came back, but you see, my situation is very different than yours. Mine has been going on a long time. I’ve
this?” “Sometimes,” I said. “You know, I’d forgotten,” he said, smiling. “But now that I think about it, I remember something like that happening to me when I was young. It’s a little vibrating behind one of our ears, right? Then it goes across the back of your head to the other ear.” “Yes, exactly!” I said excitedly. “Then yes, I do remember that happening to me.” “Well, you know what I think that this humming is,” I said. “I think that it’s the Hand of God massaging us.” He smiled a
‘crap’ because of me,” Judy said. “You can say ‘shit,’ if shit is what you really want to say.” “Really?” “Sure. Why not? I say all the bad words I can when my dad isn’t around. And my mom says some, too, when he isn’t listening to her.” “I’ll be damned—I mean, blessed. No, I mean damn, DAMN, DAMN,” I said. And why shouldn’t I say “damn” instead of “blessed?” I said to myself. Chavaboy was getting worse every day. At home our silent dinners continued and our dad just seemed to be getting
friends. But of course, I knew them all. Two were in my present third-grade class and one was in the fourth grade, in the same classroom that I’d been in before I’d flunked. They circled around me. They had funny little grins on their faces, but I couldn’t figure out what it was that they wanted. Then it hit me, they were probably mad at me for winning at marbles so much lately. But before I could say anything, they all rushed at me, and began hitting me as hard as they could. I was so shocked