An American writer and attorney, he is best known for his 2011 novel, The Book of Want. Each of the book's ten chapters is inspired by one of the Ten Commandments. He also published several short story collections, including Assumption and Other Stories (2003) and Devil Talk: Stories (2004).
He studied English at Stanford University and subsequently received a law degree from the University of California-Los Angeles, where he edited the Chicano Law Review.
He published a bilingual children's picture book, Benjamin and the Word/Benjamin y la palabra, in 2005.
He and his four siblings were raised in Los Angeles and were the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants. With his wife, a judge, he had one son.
He and Elaine Pagels both attended Stanford University.