Book Review Sample: Burro Genius: A Memoir

Burro Genius: A Memoir

The writer has selected the book Burro Genius: A Memoir because it provides a rich background from which the American education system can be reviewed. The book explores the challenges and problems that various students and teachers experience in the American education system. The book tells the story of a young Mexican man, Victor Villaseñor who went to school in the 1940s. Despite his ability in mathematics, Victor lags behind because of the challenges he has in English language. His teachers and classmates think that he is stupid and lazy and cannot learn English (Villasenor, 2005). However, Victor suffers from dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder. The disease is diagnosed when victor is 44 years old after his school going children experience difficulty in reading. These challenges do not hinder the progress of Victor in his pursuit to work hard to achieve his childhood dreams. Therefore, this paper reviews the book Burro Genius: A Memoir with a focus on the success or failure of the author in illuminating the experiences in the American school system.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1- 2

Victor gets a rare, and an unexpected opportunity to give a speech to English teachers and authors meeting in a conference. Victor got enraged at the sight of English teachers, and he decided to talk about the cruel experience in the hands of English teachers and students. At the conference, a number of teachers become offended by the speech while others give him a standing ovation for the courage he has shown to deliver the inspiring speech (Villasenor, 2005). He manages to attract buyers and critics for his book. However, one teacher challenges him to show appreciation to the kind hearted teachers who gave him hope and inspiration to succeed and write a book. Accordingly, Victor remembered the inspiring substitute teacher he had met in a military school. They met for three days and the teacher gave him the inspiration of writing without limits. Similarly, Victor remembered the harsh treatment in the military school, bullying by classmates and other nice and inhuman experiences (Villasenor, 2005). For instance, he made friends with a big boy who protected him from bullies, but he never sent the boy to beat up his teachers or everyone.

Chapter 3- 4

After the first talk, Victor received a number of invitations to give talks in various institutions, conferences and other settings. In addition, he had the chance to meet other prolific writers such as Louis L’Amour (Villasenor, 2005). These speeches and meetings enabled Victor to learn the tricks of becoming an accomplished writer and how to make his work look better. At this point, Victor recalls his first day at school, and the advice given by his father- to remember his people and seek the right woman to marry. In addition, his father encouraged him to act brave, responsibly and maturely. However, he still felt nervous and wanted to leave home from school by clinging on his mother’s leg. Within the first hour in school, Victor and other Mexican children courted trouble for speaking in Spanish. Instead of cautioning the kids to speak in English, the teacher yelled and warned that English is the only language allowed in the school. Later, a teacher refused to allow him leaves the class thus forcing him to pee on his pants. On the other hand, a teacher found a hobby in hitting Ramon who could not stop speaking Spanish and encouraged his compatriots not to fear teachers (Villasenor, 2005). After the long day at school, Victor started having nightmares and wetting his bed during the night.

Chapter 5- 6

Despite the hostility directed towards Mexican pupils, Victor did not retaliate against other students and even made friends with a Bostonian. However, the Bostonian screamed when he learnt that Victor was a Mexican and could possess a knife. Victor had no knife, but he felt that if the child claimed so, then he could believe he had one. These experiences and other events cause Victor to feel sick of being a Mexican. This is because Mexicans are no good dirty persons. Victor starts to carry knives to school. He carries two knives to school because his classmates have forced him to believe that Mexicans must possess knives. At school, a teacher confiscates one knife and Ramon pick the remaining one. The teacher summons Victor to the office and orders him to bring his parents to school. The mother feels mad and infuriated at Victor, whereas the father defends his actions by stating that the knife was not used against another person. Later, Victor runs away from home after meeting two cowboys having a herd of mustangs and on their way to Hollywood (Villasenor, 2005). He led the cowboys to his ranch where they rested their herd. From the two cowboys, he learns about the hospitality of Mexicans thus restoring his faith in the race.

Chapter 7- 8

Victor borrows generosity lessons from his father and also learns how one should not be too generous. He learns that the school did not get worse and felt bad about the prospects of getting back to school (Villasenor, 2005). He started to wet his bed daily. He worked hard to catch up with classmates but could not achieve that goal. Thereafter, he realizes that he needs to appreciate what he had, and the need to change his life positively. His parents transferred him to a new school to begin second grade. However, Victor and Los Vatos think that the school is worse because the teachers are crueler with Mexican kids. Later, he met Whitakin who brought him cream puffs as they rode to school. Also, he met Gus, a Texan boy who introduces Victor to playing marbles. Victor sought assistance from his brother Joseph in order to learn about the game. He later played Gus and won or lost a number of games. He later practiced and started winning games but balanced them in order to encourage his friend to play daily (Villasenor, 2005).

Chapter 9-10

Back at school, Victor knows several math concepts and is becoming a genius in mathematics. However, his trouble with reading forced him to coil back when the teacher asked the students to read out aloud. This forced him to bribe classmates to volunteer reading until Mrs. Morlo noticed his problem. Mrs, Marlo convinced him to stay late in school so as to undertake extra lessons in reading. He struggled to read but failed thus had to repeat the third grade. Later, Victor and Gus met snails and lizards after rain and set fire on the poor animals. The guilt of being eaten by bigger snails and lizards compelled him to ask God for forgiveness. Victor’s father completed building his house. A man, Ford asked about the mansion, but he pretended that he is a worker and that the owner of the house was an influential person. He invited Ford to the party hosted by “his boss”. They slaughtered the steer and Joseph begun feeling sick. Victor realized that most people referred to his father as Al Capone of the West thus making him to think that his father is a dangerous guy (Villasenor, 2005). However, he controlled his curiosity and continued with the party just like other merry makers.

Chapter 11- 12

Two weeks later, two gentlemen and another group from Carlsbad barrio visited their home. They claimed that Victor’s father traded with the whites and had accepted their way of life. The men insulted Victor’s father, but he remained calm and even offered them whiskey (Villasenor, 2005). The men turned down the offer of “women drink” forcing Victor’s dad to smash a bottle on their face. A fight ensued, but the two cowboys appeared and chased the men out using their guns. Joseph’s sickness had developed, and he was sent to Scripps Hospital for treatments on his liver. In the previous treatment, the doctor had made a wrong diagnosis and put him on wrong treatments. At this point, Victor feared that death would take his brother or mother who had volunteered to swap places with Joseph should death come. However, Victor felt that he is unworthy and deserved to die instead. His father invited him for a talk and reassured him that all will be okay…”

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