The fourth of 12 children born to a Mexican-American family living in a poor section of Fresno, California, Victor Martinez says he was not encouraged to become a writer. However, he attended California State University at Fresno, where he studied creative writing with Philip Levine. Martinez now credits Levine with being the first person to tell him he had talent as a writer. Encouraged to write poetry, Martinez was awarded a graduate fellowship at Stanford University and eventually became involved with San Francisco's Poetry for Schools programs. It was through his work with these programs that Martinez was inspired to write his first novel for young adults "Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida", which is based on memories from his own childhood. This novel was awarded the 1996 National Book Award in the Young People's Literature category.
From the Publisher
Manuel Hernandez faces a time of many changes during the year leading up to his anticipated initiation into a gang. Manny's alcoholic father calls him "el perico," or parrot, comparing him to the Mexican saying about a parrot that complains about how hot it is in the shade while all along he's sitting inside the oven and doesn't know it. Will Manny find a way to escape for the oven he's trapped himself in?
Manny relates his coming of age experiences as a member of a poor Mexican American family in which the alcoholic father only adds to everyone's struggle.