If you grew up in San Francisco, you most likely encountered Victor Martinez in school. His novel, “Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida,” cemented his reputation not as a poet, which he had been for most of his life, but as a writer of gritty, insightful stories of childhood.
Martinez, who died February 18, had a life that spanned many different aspects of California culture. He was born and raised in Fresno, one of a family of 12 children. Martinez’s parents were migrant field workers, but he went on to attend California State University at Fresno, and later won a prestigious Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. Over the course of his life, he held jobs that ran the gamut from field laborer to welder to truck driver to firefighter to teacher to office clerk.
In an obituary written by his friend, Francisco X. Alarcon, Martinez is warmly remembered as a central figure of the Chicano arts and poetry scene. After Stanford, Martinez moved to the Mission, wrote culture reviews for El Tecolote, helped form a poetry collective called Humanizarte and married his sweetheart, Tina Alvarez, in San Francisco’s City Hall.
It was Alvarez who, when Martinez finished “Parrot in the Oven,” insisted that he send it to a major publisher, despite the high likelihood of rejection. The book was ultimately picked up by Harper-Collins, and went on to win the National Book Award for young people’s fiction.
A commenter on another site reports that a memorial service for Martinez will be held on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 3 p.m. at Duggan’s Funeral Service, 3434 17th Street. We’ll write more once we have this confirmed.
Do you have any memories of Martinez to share? Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.