Photo: Victor Martinez, author of "Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida" dies at age 56
“Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida” Martinez’s novel about a 14-year-old Mexican American boy growing up in California’s Central Valley, earned him the 1996 National Book Award for young people’s literature.
Martinez died on February 18,th just a few days before his 57th birthday at the apartment he shared with his wife, Tina Alvarez, in the city of San Francisco, after a struggle with lung cancer.
Physicians have linked the juvenile papilloma virus to the deadly lung cancer, as well as growing up around pesticides, said Martinez’s sister, Martha Manzano.
He was “humble, brilliant, gentle,” said Juan Felipe Herrera, a friend who is a creative-writing professor at UC Riverside, “and a man who delighted in life in all its prisms.”
Martinez was born in Fresno, California on 1954; attended Fresno High School and later Fresno State and Stanford University. The jobs he held as field laborer, welder, truck driver, firefighter, teacher and office clerk influenced his poems, short stories, and essays.
“I didn’t do well in school. I sat in the back of the class and didn’t say anything,” Martinez said during a 1998 visit to Fresno to speak to runaway and homeless children. “Most of my teachers thought I was just waiting to drop out, but my mother kept me in school. That was important because just sticking it out, just being there, gave me opportunities.”