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Under the Feet of Jesus

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,303 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
With the same audacity with which John Steinbeck wrote about migrant worker conditions in The Grapes of Wrath and T.C. Boyle in The Tortilla Curtain, Viramontes (The Moths and Other Stories) presents a moving and powerful vision of the lives of the men, women, and children who endure a second-class existence and labor under dangerous conditions in California's fields. This ...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Plume (first published April 1st 1995)
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The Joy Luck Club by Amy TanThe Namesake by Jhumpa LahiriThe Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniThe House on Mango Street by Sandra CisnerosInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Immigrant Experience Literature
217th out of 592 books — 888 voters
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77th out of 99 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,287)
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Aug 20, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
If you aren't careful you might miss it. If you try to read it fast because it appears to be an easy read you'll do yourself a disservice. If you take the time to roll the lines around in your mouth, to savour them, you'll love this. Perfecto's hands, the peach, maggots and dirt...

If your a fan of Viramontes' short stories you'll not be disappointed in this read. Nothing is lost in the longer format... images are still uncomfortable, characters so close to the surface, line after line beg for a
Dec 27, 2008 Dusty rated it liked it
Recommended to Dusty by: Kelsey Hixenbaugh
Shelves: read-in-2008
I finished Under the Feet of Jesus just a few minutes ago. And already I am forgetting bits and pieces of the plot. But, really, this book's strength is not its plot. Where Viramontes excels is in her creation of stunning images -- the orange peel that Estrella's father slices for her with his fingernail, the unexpected downpour of pesticide that sheets Alejo while he's in a tree, the semen that slides down Perfecto's leg and evaporates when it hits a hot stone, etc. An interesting if not entire ...more
Erasmo Guerra
Mar 30, 2013 Erasmo Guerra rated it it was amazing
I bought this book while attending the conference "HACIENDO CAMINOS: Mapping the Futures of U.S. Latina/o Literature."

Set against a lush and harsh landscape of the back-breaking work in the "piscas," or picking fields, and the stubborn poverty the hard labor fails to lift, this is a vivid look at the working poor reminiscent of the novel "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Still, "Under the Feet of Jesus" has a lyrical voice all its own.

Though told from a number of points of view within a
Mar 21, 2008 Tawny rated it really liked it
Author: Helena Maria Viramontes
Title: Under the Feet of Jesus
Genre: coming-of-age novel
Publication Info: Penguin Group, New York, 1995
Recommended Age: 15 and older

Plot Summary: Thirteen-year-old Estrella is the oldest of the children in her family. She is the only one capable of helping her mother support everyone by working in the fields of California. They were abandoned by their father years before, so their mother got remarried, unfortunately to a man 40 years older and nearly too old to wor
Nov 07, 2010 Kara rated it it was amazing
My first (harried) attempt at reading this book didn't permit me to enjoy the stark humanness of Viramontes' characters and her cinematic prose. This is a beautiful love story, not just between the teenage romance between Estrella and Alejo, but of the love of family and community. The novel follows a family of migrant workers, Estrella's mother Petra and her much-older lover Perfecto, while capturing the daily hardships and humanity of the oft-invisible hands that bring vegetables and fruit to ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Lori rated it liked it
This book was very hard for me to rate. I wanted to rate it a one and I wanted to rate it a five. The writing is beautiful and the only way you can do it any justice is by reading it slowly. The plot was...well, was there a plot? Maybe towards the end? Which was why I almost rated it a one. That along with the fact that it abruptly ends without more explanation. I want to be one of those deep people who like books that end illusively, but I'm just not. I like to know what happens to the characte ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Sierra added it
I had to read this book for school, so of course I didn't enjoy it as much as books I pick out for myself, but it also wasn't as bad as some books I've had to read for school. I liked the tiny bits and pieces that we got to see of Alejo and Estrella's relationship, but I wish we could have gotten to see more. I wasn't really too interested in the other parts of the story and I found them all pretty confusing, but they weren't that bad. I was really disappointed with the ending, because I'm left ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Erin rated it liked it
Well, it is not the most subtle of books. The symbolism (tar pit, barn, peaches, got it) is pretty straightforward and the names hit you over the head (Star, Perfecto, got it) are pretty straightforward, too. But it was a lovely read, and it picks up after part two. I may teach this with Steinbeck. Hello political books.
Mar 14, 2008 Brigitte rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book on a very current event since the novel is about a family of Mexican migrant workers's hardship. Nothing melodramatic here, just a very moving story.
Nov 16, 2015 Ellie rated it really liked it
This prose is frickin' beautiful. Trees like dancing women, leaves making a curtain of lace: whoa. Gorgeous. The House on Mango Street was lovely, but not like this.


But I just didn't care for this book, personally.

The descriptions were a little gross. A guy's fly is stuck, a girl's "buttocks bobbing", a mother cleans her daughter's "apricot vagina". I was uncomfortable, but I guess the context was okay.

At the end of the book, Estrella has the realization that she is the victim and these Americ
Scribbler King
Aug 06, 2012 Scribbler King rated it it was ok
UNDER THE FEET OF JESUS was ok. My main problem with it was that there wasn't much of a resolution. In fact, if you think about it, the family's life is falling apart around them just as the book ends. One person leaves, another person (presumably) dies, there are still lots of children to feed and there's even less money now to feed them with--and yet Estrella is standing on the roof feeling hopeful. Pray, what does she have to feel hopeful about? Heaven? Then why doesn't she step off the roof? ...more
Mar 31, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Kelly Garwood
Viramontes, H. M. (1995). Under the feet of Jesus. New York, NY: Dutton.
Genre: Multicultural
Award(s): N/A
Format: book
Selection process:
Hunter, J. W. (Ed.). (2010). Helena Maria Viramontes (1954-). In Contemporary Literary Criticism Vol. 285 (pp. 227-229). Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning. Retrieved from

“Don’t run scared. You stay there and look them in the eye. Don’t let them make you feel you did a crime for picking the vegetables t
Aug 19, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it
My rating is more like 2 and a half stars. I really wanted to like this book -- I had heard the author read a piece of nonfiction at last year's AWP, and it was breathtaking. I found her fiction to be less so.

This reads like an author's first novel (it may be for Viramontes, I'm not sure). This seems more to me like a short story that was stretched to be not-quite novel length. The author could have cut the first half for my taste. Also, there were far too many named characters in the beginning,
Jul 19, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
This book (novella, actually) appeals on many levels. First, it is the story of a family of Chicano migrant workers in California, and the hardships they must endure. Secondly, it is a coming-of-age story about Estrella, oldest daughter, who is a young girl of 13, and who learns about what it is like to face adult life and to rely upon oneself. There is also a powerful backstory about Perfecto, the husband, his life, and the hard decisions he must make. Beautifully written (Veramontes has writte ...more
Sep 23, 2012 Angie rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-class
Rating: 3.5

I wasn't expecting much from this novella but as I continued to read I fell in love with Viramontes' poetic descriptions! They were so beautiful! My favorite aspect (because I'm a romantic) was the blossoming love between Alejo and Estrella. Even though we don't quite get a resolution of their love or really, much of anything else, the ending was true to nature and bittersweet.

Also, Estrella is a wonderful character who defies age in this novel. She definitely takes that role of the o
Rochelle Comeaux
Nov 23, 2007 Rochelle Comeaux rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes reading Chicano literature
This book was a nice blend between Steinbeck's Clalifonia farming imagery and Cisneros' brilliant insight into the lives of Mexican-Americans and immigrants. The book includes a lot of untranslated Spanish which in my opinion added a great amount of character and was worth the confusion it sometimes created. I was not incredibly impressed by the plot development, but the characters were stunning and I felt like Viramontez captured the plight of some immigrants well. A good easy-read if you're in ...more
Sep 02, 2015 BiblioBabblers added it
Shelves: 2011
Chosen by Joan
Elizabeth Cholwell
I had to read this for school, so obviously I wasn't expecting much from it because I'm never a really huge fan of books for school. I was half right and half wrong. I hated some parts of the book while I absolutely loved others. I disliked the writing since most of the time it just served to confuse me and seemed a bit too purple prose-y and the dialogue irritated me since I couldn't figure out who was talking half the time. Along with that, Perfecto and the mother and even Alejo didn't seem th ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
4.5 yes
Feb 04, 2014 Joel rated it liked it
Ethereal and dreamlike, Under the Feet of Jesus slides its story across your face like gossamer--a swish of love here, a whisper of coming-of-age there, a murmur of tragedy and broken dreams, a flutter of hope. Viramontes is not particularly interested in driving forward a story; she's interested in capturing a mood, a feeling, a piece of life that often slips by the rest of the world as they look the other way. She writes with empathy, she writes with heartbreak, but most of all she writes with ...more
May 13, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, iu-libr
This is a powerful book, in part because it's told in such a simple and straightforward manner that the force comes from the situations and incidents being described. The book is the story of part of a summer in the life of Estrella, the eldest daughter in a migrant farm-working family, and her family and friends. At times, Viramonte's voice is almost lyrical; but what really makes the book sing is the characters, as they deal with what life throws at them.
May 14, 2007 Maythee rated it it was amazing
With its overripe (pun intended) language, this novel gives a powerful insight into the lives of migrant workers (may of whom are born here, but receive none of the "rights" most of us take for granted) while also painting a rich picture of a young woman coming of age. Estrella is a well developed, thoughtful character whose actions live up to her name as she comes to embody brilliance.
Aug 04, 2012 Davidm rated it liked it
This novel served as the prose analysis selection for this year's Advanced Placement Literature exam. . .but beyond that it is worth the read--poetically written, grippingly told, you follow a young girl, child of migrant workers, as she attempts to understand her adult world.
Deranged Pegasus
Oct 17, 2011 Deranged Pegasus rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
An intriguing book, bringing to the fore the terrible lives led by immigrants as they worked in the fields, slaved in them. The fears they held and what little they had that was truly theirs.
Nov 04, 2015 Holden rated it it was ok
Shelves: school
That was painful.

Hardly any plot to speak of, and what little there was couldn't have been more dull.

Full of overdone symbolism (we get it with the peaches already).

The mixing in of Spanish was infuriating, only because it made no sense why a Hispanic family would randomly switch between it and English when talking among themselves. My high school Spanish helped a little but I was frequently left guessing or completely confused.

The third-person omniscient didn't work. Constant flip-flopping betw
Apr 03, 2012 Deja rated it liked it
Gorgeous imagery & language in many places; evocative, particularly in depicting poverty & the struggles of immigrants who are trying to establish a home, but can also be slow in parts.
Jul 30, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
Vivid. I really enjoyed this book. The end is very ambiguous, though, which frustrates some people - although I felt like it was at least vaguely evident what the girl was going to do.
Mar 13, 2009 Sandy rated it it was amazing
Excellent... stick with it. Re-read it. So much on each page to catch and understand.
Aug 23, 2008 Alexi rated it did not like it
SO slow going tho! My goodness!
Feb 20, 2016 Ryl rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Helena Maria Viramontes (born February 26, 1954) is an American fiction writer and professor of English.

(from Wikipedia)
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