"Breaking Through" is an autobiographical novel which tells the story of 14-year-old Francisco Jimenez, his brother Roberto and his mother after their capture by immigration police. Jimenez tells of the struggle to keep his family together while living with poverty, forced labor and prejudice.
"Breaking Through" begins with a 4-year-old Francisco watching his father dig a hole under the fence separating the United States and Mexico. For the next 10 years, Francisco helps to dig his family out of poverty while also attending school, all the while constantly fearing deportation. One day at school, an immigration patrol takes Francisco from his class and deports him and his family. They face many hardships as they attempt to obtain legal papers into the United States.
When Francisco's family gets legal papers and passes their physical exams, they move to California, where Francisco graduates from high school. However, after Francisco graduates, his father begins to experience severe back pains caused by his job in the fields. In order to support his family, Francisco gets a job as a janitor. At this job, Francisco contracts infectious mononucleosis and cannot afford any medication. He therefore has to continue working while attempting to earn a college degree, even with the disease.
Eventually, Jimenez earned his degree, and he is now a professor at Santa Clara University.