A pioneering work from a visionary anthropologist, The Children of Sanchez is hailed around the world as a watershed achievement in the study of poverty—a uniquely intimate investigation, as poignant today as when it was first published.
It is the epic story of the Sanchez family, told entirely by its members—Jesus, the 50-year-old patriarch, and his four adult children—as their lives unfold in the Mexico City slum they call home. Weaving together their extraordinary personal narratives, Oscar Lewis creates a sympathetic but ultimately tragic portrait that is at once harrowing and humane, mystifying and moving.
An invaluable document, full of verve and pathos, The Children of Sanchez reads like the best of fiction, with the added impact that it is all, undeniably, true.
Oscar Lewis was born in New York City in 1914 and grew up on a small farm in upstate New York. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in 1940, and taught at Brooklyn College and Washington University before helping to found the anthropology department at the University of Illinois, where he was a professor from 1948 until his death. From his first visit to Mexico in 1943, Mexican peasants and city dwellers were among his major interests. In addition to The Children of Sanchez, his other studies of Mexican life include Life in a Mexican Village, Five Families, Pedro Martinez, and A Death in the Sanchez Family. He is also the author of La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty—San Juan and New York, which won the National Book Award, and Living the Revolution: An Oral History of Contemporary Cuba, with his wife, Ruth Maslow Lewis, and Susan M. Rigdon. Lewis also published widely in both academic journals and popular periodicals such as Harper’s. Some of his best-known articles were collected in Anthropological Essays (1970). The recipient of many distinguished grants and fellowships, including two Guggenheims, Lewis was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He died in 1970.