VICTOR VILLASEÑOR, born in the barrio of Carlsbad, California in 1940, was raised on a ranch four miles north of Oceanside, where he resides today. Since his parents were born in Mexico, Villaseñor spoke only Spanish until he began school. After years of facing language and cultural barriers coupled with heavy racial discrimination, and a reading problem which was later diagnosed as dyslexia, Villaseñor dropped out of high school in his junior year and moved to Mexico. There he discovered a wealth of Mexican art, literature, and music that helped him recapture and understand the dignity and richness of his heritage.
Villaseñor returned to the U.S. at the age of twenty. He quickly began to feel his old frustration and rage return as he witnessed again the disregard shown toward poor and uneducated people, especially those of Mexican descent. A chance encounter with James Joyce’s Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man changed Villaseñor’s life. It awakened a desire in him to confront through literature the problems associated with his cultural heritage that plagued him.
After writing nine novels, 65 short stories, and receiving 265 rejections, Villaseñor’s first novel, Macho!, was finally published (Putnam, 1973). The book, which the Los Angeles Times compared to the best of Steinbeck, began a journey that would eventually lead to the publication of the bestseller, Rain of Gold (Arte Público Press, 1991), which was reissued in a paperback edition in 2014. Published in seven languages and required reading for thousands of students across the nation, Rain of Gold is the first of five books that tells the story of Villaseñor and his family, taking the reader from the time of the Mexican Revolution to the present day.
Villaseñor’s body of work includes a number of nonfiction books which are taught in schools throughout the country: Burro Genius (Rayo, 2004); the prelude to Rain of Gold, Wild Steps of Heaven, (Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1997); its sequel, Thirteen Senses, (Harper Collins, 2001); Jury: The People vs. Juan Corona, (Little Brown and Company, 1976); and Walking Stars (Piñata Books, 1994) a collection of inspiring short stories written for young people. The critically acclaimed Walking Stars was later translated and published in Spanish as Estrellas peregrinas (Piñata Books, 2004). Villaseñor also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, starring Edward James Olmos. The author’s latest work, Crazy Loco Love (Arte Público Press, 2008), is a compelling memoir of his adolescent search for meaning and identity.
Villaseñor also published his very first bilingual picture book for children, a sly adaptation of a traditional folk tale that celebrates nature in all her beauty, Mother Fox and Mr. Coyote / Mamá Zorra y Don Coyote (Piñata Books, 2004). In 2005, two additional bilingual picture books for children by Villaseñor debuted, The Frog and His Friends Save Humanity / La rana y sus amigos salvan a la humanidad (Piñata Books) and Little Crow to the Rescue / El Cuervito al rescate (Piñata Books). These publications were soon followed by The Stranger and the Red Rooster / El forastero y el gallo rojo (Piñata Books, 2006) and Goodnight, Papito Dios / Buenas noches, Papito Dios (Piñata Books, 2007).
Villaseñor’s acclaimed written works, as well as his inspiring lectures, have earned him numerous awards and endorsements from various cities. A gifted and accomplished speaker, Villaseñor brings a fresh perspective to a number of universal themes, including pride in heritage, the strength of family, world peace, the power of the written word, and dedication to education and personal achievement.