Thomas Sanchez (SAHN-chays) interweaves historical and current events with fictional narratives of people who live on the margins of society to create powerful social and political commentaries on contemporary American culture. Like many of the characters in his books, Sanchez knows what it means to be an outsider. He was born to a Portuguese mother and a Spanish father who was killed in the Pacific during World War II. His mother and grandmother worked in canning factories to support the family. Sanchez credits his grandmother, an illiterate woman who was a skilled storyteller, with helping him to develop an appreciation of language and literature.
When Sanchez was five, his mother married a man who had originally hailed from the Midwest. Although he kept his Spanish surname, Sanchez grew up in “an Anglo-Saxon world” but had little in common with the Anglo-American society. It was then that he began to perceive himself as the “other.”
Sanchez’s mother became seriously ill when he was a teenager, and he was sent to the St. Francis School for Boys in northern California. Most of the students were orphans or poor and were from Hispanic, Native American, and African American backgrounds. He then attended a community college in Sacramento Valley; at the same time he worked as a ranch hand in the High Sierra with Washo Indians and members of other tribes. His experiences at St. Francis and on the ranch enhanced his knowledge of American Indian culture and provided the material for Rabbit Boss.
Sanchez first began to work on Rabbit Boss when he was twenty-one, while attending San Francisco State University in the 1960’s. He was deeply involved in the antiwar movement, Congress for Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After earning a B.A. in 1966 and an M.A. in 1967, he taught at the university and continued to work on the novel. After witnessing a violent protest where students were beaten, he left the country for Spain and there finished Rabbit Boss.
Rabbit Boss was published in 1973 after Sanchez returned from Spain. The novel chronicles the lives of four generations of Washo Indians, whose society is slowly decimated by the encroachment of whites on their ancestral lands. Although it begins in 1846,...
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