children of sanchez by oscar lewis

Poverty seen through the lens from within: The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis

This epic story was written in 1961 by the American anthropologist Oscar Lewis,  of the Sánchez family. It was told entirely by its members—Jesus, the 50-year-old patriarch, and his four adult children: Manuel, age thirty-two; Roberto, twenty-nine; Consuelo, twenty-seven; and Marta, twenty-five —as their lives unfold in the Mexico City slum they call their 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.

“I could not sleep when I read The Children of Sanchez in my first year of Social Anthropology Studies.”

I could not sleep when I read it in my first year of Social Anthropology Studies. Lewis interviewed the family, while developing his concept of culture of poverty. The book was banned in Mexico for a few years before pressure from literary figures resulted in its publication.

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 stunning today as when it was first published. It reads like the best of fiction, with the added impact that it is all, undeniably, true.

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