Francisco Jiménez emigrated with his family from Tlaquepaque, Mexico to California and as a child worked alongside his parents in the fields of California. He received his BA from Santa Clara University and an MA and Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Columbia University under a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.
He has served on various professional boards and commissions, including the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the California Council for the Humanities, the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WASC), Santa Clara University Board of Trustees, the Far West Lab for Educational Research and Development, and ALearn.
His autobiographical books The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, Breaking Through, Reaching Out, La Mariposa, and The Christmas Gift have won several national literary awards, including the Américas Book Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Pura Belpré Honor Book Award, the Tomás Rivera Book Award, the Jane Addams Honor Book Award and the Carter C. Woodson National Book Award. His books have been published in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian and Spanish.
He has published and edited several books on Mexican and Mexican American literature, and his stories have been reprinted in over 100 textbooks and anthologies of literature.
In 2002 he was selected U.S. Professor of the Year by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and in 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa,from the University of San Francisco. He is currently the Fay Boyle Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Santa Clara University.