Rodriguez’s father was orphaned at age eight and went to work as an apprentice for an uncle. He had a third-grade education, but when he was twenty, he left Mexico for the United States with the idea of becoming an engineer. He thought a priest would help him get the money for his education, but this didn’t happen, and he ended up taking a ‘‘dark succession of warehouse, factory, and cannery jobs.’’
Rodriguez’s father went to night school with his wife, but after a year or two he quit and waited for her outside on the school steps. When the children were born, he was working at a ‘‘clean job,’’ first as a janitor for a department store, then as a dental technician, but Rodriguez remembers that his father was always consumed by fatigue. He laughed whenever his son complained about being tired from reading and studying; he could not understand how one could become tired from reading and often mocked his son’s soft hands. Rodriguez’s father never verbally encouraged the children to do well in school.
His father was able to provide for his family a house in a comfortable, middle-class neighborhood ‘‘many blocks from the Mexican south side of town.’’ But the family still felt estranged from the white community that surrounded them in Sacramento of the 1950s. Rodriguez remembers that his father was shy only when he spoke English; when he spoke Spanish with family and friends, he was animated and outgoing.
(The entire section is 250 words.)