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The Children of Sánchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  617 ratings  ·  76 reviews
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 Sánchez family, told entirely by its members—Jesus, the 50-year-old patriarch, and his four adult
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 560 pages
Published November 29th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1961)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  617 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult story to read because it follows a family through the cycle of life where the children can't quite rise above the poverty and ignorance of their time and situation. It struck me as the embodiment of why the macho culture of men having mistresses who produce second, third or fourth families to feed hinders the children. It robs them of a better life when their father can't live with them and support them all. A very sad but deeply moving book. It sticks with the reader for yea ...more
Nov 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Biography of the Sanchez family of Mexico City between 1940's and 1950's. I read this when I was 16 and a junior in high school and it was an eye opening experience. I learned that 2 or more people experiencing the same event do not view it the same way or react to it the same. I decided to read it again and see what I got this time. This time it made me mad that the 4 children could not see what would change their lives and get them out of the poverty and hard lives they were living. Tradition ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
This is not fiction, as some reviewers seem to believe. It is an anthropological case study of what Lewis termed "the culture of poverty" in 1950s Mexico City. So real was it, that Lewis was sued for defamation by the administration--they apparently didn't want people to know the reality of DF's poorest.

I first ran across this book in highschool back in the 1970s, and then a film was made based on the characters, with a soundtrack by Chuck Mangione which was very popular. (I later saw the film,
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent work..some books affects us the way we live nd the way we look at people,life nd poverty..i just loved this book..its the kinda books u feel to ur bones..moving,bitter but true..everyword crumbles ur safe world nd introduces u to a world of misery,pain,hunger,lust nd inconvineince inconvinience...its a story written by a group of people that have never been heard before..the voiceless mass..
This book is a harsh dose of truth. Of course, this is an actual autobiography, transcribed and a bit redacted from recorded interviews. It's amazing how one family's life story reflects so many other families' stories, and across the social board, too, in Mexico -- and perhaps the best part of Latin America.
The basic things most of us take for granted (privacy in your house, in the bedroom, in the toilet even!) are exactly the things poor families like the Sanchez lack, and this leads to all s
H. P. Reed
The Children of Sanchez is not really, as the extended title claims, the autobiography of a Mexican family. The raw material had to be organized by someone, Oscar Lewis presumably. That said, the book grabbed me and has never let me go. I had to abandon my privileged critical nature at the door, however, since to read this as a member of the American middle-class and using that critical yard-stick is to do an injustice to these people and to oneself. I had to be open to the differences in our experienc ...more
Todd Partridge
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The anthropologist Oscar Lewis compiles interviews of five family members to create five accounts within one family of what life is like in mid-twentieth century Mexico. This is really a story of a Mexican middle-class family though poor by North American standards.
How a family survives on seemingly scraps is amazing to read. Also interesting is: how event accounts vary between family members; live in industrial, post-revolution Mexico; how a city deals with large population growth; the
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My father give me this book because he loved when he was young, and when i read it, i realize that is one of the best books of all the times. In the 60's mexican government call it "calumny and obscene". This book represents the reality of Mexico in past years and sadly these years, the children of sanchez openly shows, the daily life of a family struggling to survive day after day.
Highly recommended.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I was excited to read the book, but quit halfway through. I read quite a bit, but got mucked down by the severe dysfunction of the family and the lack of indication that anything was being gained. I'm a fan of Latin America in general and am willing to toil quite a bit, but I just couldn't do it this time.
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was so floored by this book. Even though it was written years ago, it grabs you in and keeps you. It is kind of sad (to me anyway)......but it's a great story of a family in the slums of the Motherland.
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Handsome description of third-world situation and mentality. Beautiful illustration of Oral History. Situated in Mexico.
Yahya El
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve started reading this book/ autobiography last year when I signed up for school, I intended to read few pages from it while commuting in train every morning going to school, I still didn’t finish the book, but Im halfway through, and let me tell you, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with a book in my life, this amazing story about a poor Mexican family got me into tears sometimes and made me laugh hysterically in others, I’ve gotten soo deep in the story that the characters ( ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the heartbreaking story of a family from DF, who live near the Lowest level of poverty in the nation's capital. The Sanchez family, father Jesus, sons Roberto and Manuel, and daughters Consuelo and Marta, tell their stories via tape recorder to anthropologist Oscar Lewis. For those who live in a bubble and cannot relate to this kind of reality check, they may become depressed and put a bad review, as I saw at least one Goodreads reviewer do. Mexican society is extremely patriarchal, and ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
Lewis, an anthropologist, shares his work in the studies of culture and economy and life within Mexico with us in this novel of about a family trying to survive in the slums of Mexico. This novel paints an honest and yes, bleak image of life in the slums of Mexico. The reader will feel right away an absence of something, yet, not quite putting their finger on it until the novel progresses a bit further and then it is discovered that there is wholly absent any form of happiness, even mild moments ...more
Jeannette Modesto
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this novel back in 1989. It was loaned to me by my Spanish Lit professor. It first attracted my attention because Sanchez is my mother's maiden name.I remember enjoying it so much that I never forgot it. Saw the book again a few months ago on offer and ordered it. But on this 2nd read I did not find it as emotional nor tragic as the first time I read it. I found it a bit redundant, especially Manuel's narrative.
Ted Morgan
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This work came to me from my former wife. It is a remarkably readable study told with great insight and affection. I don't know how scientific it is but it firmly touched me. The pathos overwhelmed me.
Joni Jeffery
Did not care for the writing style. Very choppy and repetitive. Only read a quarter of it.
Shawn Quan
Great content, too long and super plain narrative, might be lost in translation but really hard to read for the second half.
John Lingan
If you are going to write about poverty, this is the guidebook. Its lesson, Lewis's great insight, was to let people tell their stories how they would like them to be told.
Debra Anne
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book 20 some years ago and it never turned me loose. Just re-read it and it is as compelling as I remember it. If you feel something for Mexico beyond the level of tourist, this book will take you there. This book was written in 1961, but I suspect that things have not changed all that much. But beyond being about a poor Mexican family, it is the story of a human family, made of human beings who who cannot see beyond their own sorrow in order to enlist each other's help in their desper ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me personally, The Children of Sanchez is a book about humanity. It shows us the positiveness and its opposite; selfishness and broad loves; violence and kindness; greed and satisfaction; falling and dreaming; slyness and integrity; weakness and brevity; pride and humbleness, etc. It becomes harder and harder for one to be judgmental to any character in the book, or to anyone we know of in real life for that matter. Who are we to judge people at the end of the day? We can never know what is ...more
Thing Two
Oscar Lewis took a tape recorder with him when he interviewed the Sanchez family of Mexico City in the 1950's. Jesus Sanchez was a widower with four children to raise - Roberto, Manuel, Consuelo, and Marta. Lewis interviews the children, now adults, who hold nothing back when expressing their hostility towards Jesus, each other, police, the government, and life in general.

I grew up listening to the soundtrack of the movie made from this anthropological study. It's fascinating to me to, now, rea
Reza Eskandary
Although it's a great ethnographic documentary, but I'm not completely satisfied. I think that Oscar Lewis could not make his audiences sure about his honesty. Especially when Manuel and Consuelo are worshiping American culture. It's a little bit teasing for me. Maybe I'm wrong and these things are exactly as the same as their reality, but it's still hard to believe for me.
Anyways, I do appreciate Lewis' effort to gather this huge amount of data and organize them in a story-formed documentary.
Chi Chi
May 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Pedro Martinez, because it lead some insight into the Mexican Revolution, Aztec heritage, Mexico City, etc. Children of Sanchez should have, in theory, given the reader insight into growing up poor in Mexico City from approximately the '30s-'50s. In reality, all I could think was that this family was a collection of some of the worst human beings that I've ever come across. Lying, cheating, beating, robbing, etc. The only thing that made this book more depressing was that it was ...more
Eduardo De
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sons of Sanchez is a very mature book. Not mature in the way of sex and all that stuff. It is mature in the way the book tells the story. The story is aobut a familys luck. It is a very sad story but that is how life is. I wouldnt recommend this book to much people but I would to those who like to read about life. Personally I thought it was an ok book. Neverhteless, if you think you want to know the truth to some peoples misery, then read the book. ...more
Stuart Turnbull
All in all a good read. Although, the four-children narrative can often be repetitive and a little heavy going. Part 2 particularly seemed quite drawn out. Part 3 provided both the content and rhythm to keep going to the end.

Very interesting piece in term of an exposé of impoverished Mexican family life. I would question whether some of the content has been sensationalised by the contributors or the author to exaggerate the barbarism of everyday life...
Kara Jacobs
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as an adolescent, and I still love it, perhaps partly for nostalgic reasons. In its day, it was revolutionary--using anthropological methods to get some big fat slices of a poor family's life in Mexico D.F. Okay, maybe it does go on a ittle too much in parts, but it sure gives you a good feeling for what life was like for those people.
Teddy Carter
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a record of the lives of several generations of a lower class family in Mexico. Reads quite easily and authentically. It was fascinating to read about the intimate details of their daily lives - their impressions of the world, and their living conditions, down to the food they ate each day.
Probably not bad from a sociological point of view, but I must admit to some skepticism about how much of this case study is actually true. Some meta material I've read suggests that the answer is "not all that much, really." Read as fiction, this simply wasn't all that interesting, so I'm afraid that I'm bailing around page 85 or so.
this book, delving into the intamacies and relationships of a family in mexico city, was fundamentally formative in my intelectual, spiritual, andsocial developent.
a brave book, a challenging book...
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Oscar Lewis was born in New York City in 1914, and grew up on a small farm in upstate New York. He received his PhD 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, Me ...more
“[...] vous savez, un doute fait plus de mal qu'une déception.” 0 likes
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