Elena Poniatowska's "The Skin of the Sky" (New Mexico paperback, $17.95) is the story of Lorenzo de Tena, a Mexican astronomer born in the 1930s. The illegitimate son of a wealthy Mexico City businessman and a poor but intelligent peasant woman, Lorenzo is introduced to science (pasteurization and the wonders of flight) by his mother, beginning a lifelong passion.
When his mother dies, Lorenzo and his siblings are taken to live with their father. The children have difficulty adjusting to a life of wealth and privilege, but Lorenzo devotes all his attentions to astronomy. He eventually goes to Harvard to complete his studies and returns to Mexico, determined to elevate Mexico's scientific rankings.
Poniatowska, a longtime chronicler of Mexico's blend of cultures, delivers a probing look at how a passion for and an understanding of science can lift a keen mind from poverty to academic achievement.