Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In César Chávez: Autobiography of La Causa, Jacques E. Levy combines several forms of storytelling—traditional biography, autobiography, oral history, and journalism—to recount the remarkable life of the migrant farmer-turned-labor leader and his unique social movement. To the lengthy tape-recorded reminiscences by Chávez, his family members, and his union colleagues, Levy adds his own firsthand reporting on the innermost workings of the United Farm Workers.

The reader hears in Chávez’s own words memories of his early life in Arizona and the Chávez farm, the loss of which pushed the family on the road to California and to the unforgiving existence of the migrant farm worker, who moves up and down the state to follow crop harvests. That experience, and Chávez’s deep religious beliefs, sparked in him a profound concern for other migrant farm workers. He began to knock on doors and to organize these workers one by one into a union that could stand up to powerful growers and, through nonviolent means, press for better working conditions.

Levy traces the union’s history from Chávez’s initial meetings with small groups of workers in 1962 through its growth as an international symbol of social change. The route was never easy. The farm workers, many of whom were not United States citizens and spoke only Spanish, had to be persuaded to become involved in what would doubtless be a long struggle. Throughout the growth of the...

(The entire section is 506 words.)