Francisco Jimenez

Breaking Through

  • 53-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 25 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a college professor with a Master's degree in English Literature
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Breaking Through Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 53-page guide for “Breaking Through” by Francisco Jimenez includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 25 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Rage Fueled by Injustice and Solidarity of Family and Community.

Plot Summary

Breaking Through, an autobiography by Francisco Jimenez, is a work of juvenile literature that was published in 2001. The book records the childhood experiences of the author as he struggles to become familiar with American culture, and has been awarded a number of prizes, including The Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and the Pura Belpre Honor Award.

The story commences with a description of the then 4-year-old author, his parents, and his older brother digging under a barbed wire fence at the border crossing between the United States and Mexico. Sternly schooled by his Papa as to the danger of deportation that will occur should he reveal his Mexican birthplace to anyone in the US, the little boy is fearful for many years that his family will be deported due to their illegal immigration status. When he is 14, this is precisely what occurs. The author ties together a series of chronological anecdotes in order to illustrate his daily life from the time of his entry to the country until his triumphant admission into the University of Santa Clara.

The family work together as migrant crop pickers, desperately pursuing the American dream and attempting to escape the relentless poverty that they had experienced in Mexico. Papa, a stern, traditional father, has dreams of accruing wealth through hard work and providing his six children with improved opportunities. During the author’s early years in California, the family moves from one farm to another as his parents work in the fields. They live in tents and old garages and ultimately in an abandoned Army barracks on the Bonnetti Ranch in Santa Maria, California. Mama is presented as a wise, nurturing individual who works hard to care for her family.

Francisco loves school from the start. Some of his saddest memories involve being taken out of elementary school when the family must move in order to follow work picking crops. While hindered in the early grades by his inability to speak English, Francisco ultimately becomes a high-achieving student and graduates from an academic high school course with a 3.77 grade point average when his parents secure permanent employment at the Bonetti Ranch in Santa Maria, California. Bright and industrious, he is able to achieve well while working at numerous jobs in order to support the family financially. His older brother, Roberto, is delayed in graduating from high school; as Francisco matures, he realizes that this was because Roberto never started a school year at the elementary level prior to the month of January. This was a result of the crop-picking cycle.

The family is close-knit and loving. Sadly, Papa suffers severe, chronic back pain as a result of his years of physical labor. He is further debilitated emotionally when he and a friend take a bank loan in an effort to start their own strawberry farm. A blight occurs; despite excruciatingly hard work, the crop is lost. Papa never recovers completely from this blow. He becomes increasingly bitter, angry, and depressed and is eventually unable to contribute to the family income at all. In a very strong illustration of cultural expectations, his two oldest sons shoulder the bulk of the economic responsibility by working at janitorial jobs before and after the school day. They do so without embitterment and always seek ways to find additional means of increasing their incomes for the family.

As Francisco matures and expands his social and employment circles, he encounters a number of genuinely kind individuals such as teachers, guidance counselors and employers who assist with his dream of attending college. Regrettably, he and his brother, Roberto, also experience discrimination and prejudice when they meet the parents of American girls who discourage relationships with Mexicans. As he grows into a young man, Francisco is angered by the social injustice that he witnesses personally and reads about in school. He becomes determined to meet his own goals of breaking out of the cycle of poverty, both for his own betterment and that of his entire community.

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Chapters 1-3