A Mexican-American author and an important figure in contemporary Chicano literature, he is best known for his 1972 novel, Bless Me, Ultima, as well as for his 1992 work, Albuquerque. He was a recipient of both the American Book Award and the National Medal of Arts.
He earned a B.A. in English and American Literature from the University of New Mexico.
He published several books for children, including Roadrunner's Dance and The First Tortilla.
He was raised in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He married Patricia Lawless in 1966.
He and Diana Gabaldon are both Mexican-American writers.