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Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

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Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum. Here is the poignant journey of a minority student who pays the cost of his social assimilation and academic success Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum. Here is the poignant journey of a minority student who pays the cost of his social assimilation and academic success with a painful alienation--from his past, his parents, his culture--and so describes the high price of making it in middle-class America. Provocative in its positions on affirmative action and bilingual education, Hunger of Memory is a powerful political statement, a profound study of the importance of language and the moving, intimate portrait of a boy struggling to become a man.


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Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum. Here is the poignant journey of a minority student who pays the cost of his social assimilation and academic success Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum. Here is the poignant journey of a minority student who pays the cost of his social assimilation and academic success with a painful alienation--from his past, his parents, his culture--and so describes the high price of making it in middle-class America. Provocative in its positions on affirmative action and bilingual education, Hunger of Memory is a powerful political statement, a profound study of the importance of language and the moving, intimate portrait of a boy struggling to become a man.

30 review for Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I was attracted to this set of “essays impersonating an autobiography” from 1982 due to the warm, wise, and sensitive persona he projected in his reflections on the human condition in his TV segments on Charles Kuralt’s CBS production “Sunday Morning”. He paints a vivid picture of his emotional and mental development as the child of working class Mexican immigrants in Sacramento. I loved his portrayal of the impact Catholicism had on him in youth, his comfort in the rituals and mystery, I was attracted to this set of “essays impersonating an autobiography” from 1982 due to the warm, wise, and sensitive persona he projected in his reflections on the human condition in his TV segments on Charles Kuralt’s CBS production “Sunday Morning”. He paints a vivid picture of his emotional and mental development as the child of working class Mexican immigrants in Sacramento. I loved his portrayal of the impact Catholicism had on him in youth, his comfort in the rituals and mystery, inspiration from their high Latin Mass then standard, and serving as an altar boy. He didn’t suffer much from explicit racist incidents, but he internalized significant levels of internal racism from his mother’s linkage of a dark complexion with poverty and manual outdoor labor and his sister’s sense that lighter skin was more attractive. His parents sacrificed a lot for him to get a decent education, but the drive he developed toward success in that realm led to a wedge between him and their culture. They could be proud of him, but for a long time he had lost the ability to be proud of them. The process led him toward some sense of shame over their lack of education and associated sophistication. I was fascinated with his emerging concept that Spanish spoken at home was for expression of his private and true self, whereas the English spoken in school was for projecting a public persona. At first his steps toward achievement and precocious involved a mercenary pleasing his teachers and parroting their ways and thoughts. Eventually, he learned that the assimilation he was experiencing was a valuable ticket to healthy skills of expressing a private identity in public. This was part of the insight that led him to fame in essays against bilingual education and affirmative action. He was obviously talented or he wouldn’t have been able to excel at Stanford and Berkeley and complete a Fullbright Fellowship on Renaissance literature. But he did come see how unjust it was for him to benefit so much from scholarships and affirmative action as a minority student, when the real source of unequal opportunity lay in poor early education. I can identify with the elements of his story related to being a poor scholarship student under special pressures and guilt from receiving such opportunity and to the sense of alienation in the divorce of the Ivory Tower from one’s roots. Rodriguez true claim to fame came not from the traditional arena of academic pursuits, but as an essayist with a special knack of elucidating our social reality in American by infusing objective analyses with the personal. My “B” grade for this reflects to diminishing relevance of the topics of bilingual education and affirmative action which figure significantly in this volume. I have collected two of his three other autobiographical collections and due to their different subjects look forward to pursuing them eventually because of his writing skill.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I have taught Rodriguez's essay, "The Third Man" for four semesters at Columbia. Now I am in a class where this book was assigned to me. I mention this because this is a book about the learning process, its prizes and perils. I can't stop thinking about this book, talking about it. Rodriguez fights for every sentence, every word. You can almost see the 200 revisions that have gone into each phrase, but not quite. This is a beautiful book that accomplishes what I thought to be an impossible task: I have taught Rodriguez's essay, "The Third Man" for four semesters at Columbia. Now I am in a class where this book was assigned to me. I mention this because this is a book about the learning process, its prizes and perils. I can't stop thinking about this book, talking about it. Rodriguez fights for every sentence, every word. You can almost see the 200 revisions that have gone into each phrase, but not quite. This is a beautiful book that accomplishes what I thought to be an impossible task: the autobiographical political manifesto. How many old men out there want to write memoirs cum polemics? All of them, I think. Rodriguez is young in this book, but he took a long time writing it (years). The most intriguing idea in this book, to me, is RR's assertion that a great education can only be obtained with great sacrifice. By this, he doesn't mean hard work, he means that any time someone from a disadvantaged background obtains a great education, they sacrifice closeness with their family, their community. The price of the education is isolation, even loneliness. For anyone who is trying to write a book for those who don't read books, for those who can't read, this book is your friend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samira

    Ok. So I did not enjoy this book, not because it was a terrible book, but because it angered me. I am Americanized and I try my very best to learn as much about my culture as possible. I want to embrace my culture and the fact that there is someone out there who wants to throw theirs away (when they know how to speak their language fluently and know their culture by nature) angers me. Maybe, then, it is a really good book because it got a response from me, because it impacted me, but I still Ok. So I did not enjoy this book, not because it was a terrible book, but because it angered me. I am Americanized and I try my very best to learn as much about my culture as possible. I want to embrace my culture and the fact that there is someone out there who wants to throw theirs away (when they know how to speak their language fluently and know their culture by nature) angers me. Maybe, then, it is a really good book because it got a response from me, because it impacted me, but I still can't help but get angry when I hear the author's name.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Rodriguez is often vilified by academic leftists for his conservative views on bilingual education (against it) and affirmative action (against it). Strangest of all, he wants to go back to the Latin mass. He is a gay, Mexican-American Catholic who got his PhD in Renaissance Literature and then dropped out of the academic circuit because he felt Ivy League schools were courting him due to his ethnicity. Now he makes a living off his books, articles, and boyfriend. This is more a story of his Rodriguez is often vilified by academic leftists for his conservative views on bilingual education (against it) and affirmative action (against it). Strangest of all, he wants to go back to the Latin mass. He is a gay, Mexican-American Catholic who got his PhD in Renaissance Literature and then dropped out of the academic circuit because he felt Ivy League schools were courting him due to his ethnicity. Now he makes a living off his books, articles, and boyfriend. This is more a story of his early years and the mental negotiations of being "a scholarship boy." --Which he continually refers to in ponderous parentheses. Well, being an 8-year scholarship girl, I feel I have to say he is a little bit right and a little bit making excuses for his own conservatism and trying to trace it to a larger dynamic. His writing is very reserved and serious, making his prose succinct but ultimately a bit dull. Also, in light of today's tell-all memoir culture, it is funny/quaint how he thinks he is doing something huge by revealing his mildly awkward childhood memories about being a child genius with assimilation anxiety. The genre has gotten into much deeper waters in the past 30 years! I happen to read this between "Vows" and "Fun House" and I was struck by how both those books really put it all out there in a much more engaging way. The best thing I took away from the book was his argument that by design education changes people and we cannot pretend to be the old person we were once we have committed fully to the process of schooling.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sro

    Please, excuse me for being frank about this, but some of the reviewers missed the main point of the book. Rodriguez is not writing about himself trying to leave his cultural heritage behind. He is writing about his struggle to keep his heritage, while being assimilated by another culture: The culture of higher (end) education. His struggle is grounded on his (working class) family being so far away from that when he started his journey, and also unintentionally pushing him away by taking from Please, excuse me for being frank about this, but some of the reviewers missed the main point of the book. Rodriguez is not writing about himself trying to leave his cultural heritage behind. He is writing about his struggle to keep his heritage, while being assimilated by another culture: The culture of higher (end) education. His struggle is grounded on his (working class) family being so far away from that when he started his journey, and also unintentionally pushing him away by taking from him the most important medium of relation: their language. At the end of his journey he has come extremly far, and at the same time he must go back to square one. He has broken every educational ceiling there is, but still suffers from his inner disunity. Now that he has reached what his parents had in mind, when moving close to his very first school, he must try to revive his roots. This is extremly difficult, for his parents are (in a sense) still working class. To round it up: His main struggle is about keeping his cultural heritage, while loosing the social heritage. And he did a pretty fine job in putting it into words. If you are interested in this topic, I recommend Richard Hoggart's "The Uses of Literacy. Aspects of Working Class Life".

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This book was pretty infuriating to read. Rodriguez contradicts himself over and over again and many of his statements are very hypocritical. He argues that elementary education needs reform, yet he knows nothing of the public school system in which the majority of minorities go through in this country. In my opinion, he is completely out of touch with the subject matter he discusses and therefore it makes it hard for me to see any merit in his stances.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    This is a book some will love and others will hate. I first read this book for a college course and found Mr. Rodriguez a bit of a complainer. I just finished re-reading and discovered I greatly enjoyed his writing style and was better able to understand his experience growing up Mexican-American in California. I am still a bit ambivilant It is, at times, a riviting personal narrative. about the interaction between language, culture and assimilation. Mr. Rodriguez poignantly communicates his This is a book some will love and others will hate. I first read this book for a college course and found Mr. Rodriguez a bit of a complainer. I just finished re-reading and discovered I greatly enjoyed his writing style and was better able to understand his experience growing up Mexican-American in California. I am still a bit ambivilant It is, at times, a riviting personal narrative. about the interaction between language, culture and assimilation. Mr. Rodriguez poignantly communicates his sadness about his inability speak his native language with his dying grandmother or his parents. He takes a stand on issues of education that may go against what is expected of a Mexican-American, nor is he apologetic on his stand. In his later book of essays, wirtten almost a decade later, "Days of Obligation" his view of total assimilation is somewhat broken.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    I met Mr. Rodriguez once after hearing him speak. Years later, I decided to read his memoir/autobiographical sojourn. I had mixed feelings as I read his memoirs because he seemed troubled, angry and befuddled by his confusion over his lack of connectivity with his culture and family. I feel he never truly came to grips with who he was and the impact of getting a first class education. Sometimes, he comes across ashamed and other times he seems boastful. Throughout his book, I get the impression I met Mr. Rodriguez once after hearing him speak. Years later, I decided to read his memoir/autobiographical sojourn. I had mixed feelings as I read his memoirs because he seemed troubled, angry and befuddled by his confusion over his lack of connectivity with his culture and family. I feel he never truly came to grips with who he was and the impact of getting a first class education. Sometimes, he comes across ashamed and other times he seems boastful. Throughout his book, I get the impression he is a reluctant penitent. Maybe, it is me but I found his book confusing and frustrating. For an educated man, he does not communicate clearly.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    Unlike Richard Rodriguez I'm not a Mexican-American, but I did grow up in a Spanish-speaking household since my mother is Puerto Rican. Of all the books about and by Hispanics I've read before or since, this is the one I most identified with, that really resonated and spoke to me. I could see much about my family reflected in his--attitudes towards education, skin color, religion... This book indeed was assigned reading in a Sociology class, because it does fit into that discipline. But it's Unlike Richard Rodriguez I'm not a Mexican-American, but I did grow up in a Spanish-speaking household since my mother is Puerto Rican. Of all the books about and by Hispanics I've read before or since, this is the one I most identified with, that really resonated and spoke to me. I could see much about my family reflected in his--attitudes towards education, skin color, religion... This book indeed was assigned reading in a Sociology class, because it does fit into that discipline. But it's also known for Rodriguez' positions within it on Affirmative Action and Bilingual Education--which I agreed with--particularly after reading this. He talks about what he lost with the intimacy built by speaking Spanish, yes--but that to function in America what he needed was a public language--which in this country means English first and foremost. And that to gain that public voice and move into the mainstream of American society such a sacrifice is crucial and necessary. It's also a moving, powerful, and beautifully written biography.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    I read this book over Christmas break and it ruined my holiday! It's the memoirs of a lost man who seeks to justify the distance he feels from his family through his transformation by assimilation into a well to do American author. He sees the loss he has experienced as worth the price. The edition I have is recommended by conservative George Will need I say more to my liberal friends as to why I can not stand this book? I will say more. It haunts me. I see him as the child I knew who wanted to I read this book over Christmas break and it ruined my holiday! It's the memoirs of a lost man who seeks to justify the distance he feels from his family through his transformation by assimilation into a well to do American author. He sees the loss he has experienced as worth the price. The edition I have is recommended by conservative George Will need I say more to my liberal friends as to why I can not stand this book? I will say more. It haunts me. I see him as the child I knew who wanted to be white. He saw his ethnicity as a disadvantage (rightly so). Rodriquez makes the childhood mistake of equating educated with being white. He and his family agree by the urging of the nuns who educated him to lose his Spanish. Speak only English at home. He is a lonely soul who I pity. The price of his success was too great and utterly unnecessary. His story only stokes my anger against the bigoted who yell speak English to the immigrant, who fear the changing demographics of America and who are hurting our immigrant students in US schools when we do not encourage them to keep their language but only push English on them. These fools think losing a language makes a person better. With Rodriguez I rest my case that it does not.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    This book was written more than thirty years ago, in the early Eighties. It's the life story of an educated Mexican American who became an Ivy League college professor. All over the country there are people like Richard Rodriguez, teachers, doctors, lawyers, even Supreme Court justices. (Oh, and let's not forget Diana Gabaldon, romance author, visionary and innovator, a double-bacon genius burger whose roots are in Mexico even if her books are all set in Scotland!) Yet even today, in 2016, when This book was written more than thirty years ago, in the early Eighties. It's the life story of an educated Mexican American who became an Ivy League college professor. All over the country there are people like Richard Rodriguez, teachers, doctors, lawyers, even Supreme Court justices. (Oh, and let's not forget Diana Gabaldon, romance author, visionary and innovator, a double-bacon genius burger whose roots are in Mexico even if her books are all set in Scotland!) Yet even today, in 2016, when you turn on the TV the "Mexican" character is usually someone like Tuco or Crazy Eight on BREAKING BAD. More than thirty years after this book was written, Mexican = "bad guy" = "gang banger" = "dope dealer." Not all Mexican men are ruthless, fast-talking gangsters, stone cold killers with golden teeth and gang tattoos and big shiny cars that bounce up and down. Some Mexican men are timid, self-effacing, gay academics who just want to blend in to the scenery and disappear. That's why this is an important book, even if it's slow and sad and boring, and really not much fun to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Araceli Sanchez

    When I decided to pick this book to read I was in my early 20's. The first chapters I felt I could somehow relate to the struggle in trying to assimilate to the mainstream culture. However, as I continue reading I was disappointed when I read further. I got the feeling that he was ashamed of his roots and felt that he was someone who is phony and he was not able to fit in with his family because of the education he had attain at UCLA. I am Mexican American and also attended college. When I was a When I decided to pick this book to read I was in my early 20's. The first chapters I felt I could somehow relate to the struggle in trying to assimilate to the mainstream culture. However, as I continue reading I was disappointed when I read further. I got the feeling that he was ashamed of his roots and felt that he was someone who is phony and he was not able to fit in with his family because of the education he had attain at UCLA. I am Mexican American and also attended college. When I was a student I never felt I had to assimilate to the mainstream culture and forget from where I came from. I am proud to be bi-cultural and do not have to pretend to be someone I am not. My family have taught me well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yessica Salinas

    Although I did understand where he was going, and in a sense understand the indifference being bilingual does. I feel he couldn't see the broader picture of his life. He actually came from a much better background, attended a private school, went to universities and overall a great life. so for him to write his life as a tragedy and unfair upbringing, was very much incorrect. self insecurities played a major role in his perspective. but definitely a hard read, and even harder to relate to.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Great Book Study

    A really pleasant conversation about major social topics. My review here: Hunger of Memory

  15. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Belle

    in many ways i felt as if he was ashamed of his mexican heritage. he seems to uphold assimilation and westernization of thought, mind, etc. for that reason, i am not a fan.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    What did you think? Goodreads asks. Indeed this book gave me a lot to think about. Although it was written over 30 years ago, he brought up some points that are still in contention. As in many nonfiction books, Mr. Rodriguez has the tendency to re-state his case repeatedly in various permutations. The main points that I distilled from it are that Affirmative Action is bad because it tends to give people who aren't really disadvantaged unnecessary advantage. He seems to forget that prior to What did you think? Goodreads asks. Indeed this book gave me a lot to think about. Although it was written over 30 years ago, he brought up some points that are still in contention. As in many nonfiction books, Mr. Rodriguez has the tendency to re-state his case repeatedly in various permutations. The main points that I distilled from it are that Affirmative Action is bad because it tends to give people who aren't really disadvantaged unnecessary advantage. He seems to forget that prior to affirmative action, during times of quotas, the quota for many minority groups was 0. It was irrelevant if the person applying was economically disadvantaged or not. That said, Rodriguez makes a good point when he says that more attention should be paid to economic disadvantage and to improving the elementary and high schools in poor neighborhoods so that students from such schools will be capable of going to college. As in many programs, a good concept can be unsuccessful if inadequately funded. Rodriguez confuses the concept of Affirmative Action with the way such programs were carried out on a lot of college campuses. Coming to college with inadequate foundations, he saw many such students fail for lack of enough academic support. He has a point that that should have been provided. Throughout the book, Rodriguez seems to be conflicted about his identity as a Mexican from a working-class family. Although all his siblings were academically and financially successful, none of them seemed to share his pain about moving up in the class struggle and thus, farther away from their working class parents. Indeed, at the time that he wrote this book,Rodriguez seems to be struggling with many personal issues. That was over 30 years ago. I hope that he's resolved them by now. At any rate, it was an interesting read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Briana

    I have been trying to figure out some of the deep anger and hate this book receives. In fact I read the reviews before I even read the book. (Randomly found it at half price books and it seemed interesting enough) I am glad I don’t let reviews sway my reading choices. This was a profound book for me. Something that I deeply resonate with and did not expect to. Being full Hispanic (half Mexican half Argentinian) it was really beautiful to see parts of myself portrayed in this collection of essays I have been trying to figure out some of the deep anger and hate this book receives. In fact I read the reviews before I even read the book. (Randomly found it at half price books and it seemed interesting enough) I am glad I don’t let reviews sway my reading choices. This was a profound book for me. Something that I deeply resonate with and did not expect to. Being full Hispanic (half Mexican half Argentinian) it was really beautiful to see parts of myself portrayed in this collection of essays that I had never seen or read before and perhaps never even really figured out or put into words before. Sadly, I think a lot of people did not grasp what Richard was trying to say. I think also a lot of people forget it is a personal essay and speaking from his own point of view and understandings. But either way, I understood completely what it means to be separated by your parents culture by language and education. It was oftentimes heartbreaking to read because it was so similar to my own experience. Also the bits about Catholicism was really great to read and understand about myself. Truly so much of it was eye opening and I think it would do a lot of people good to read it. Also the last part !!! 😭😭 idk why that made me so sad, probably because it was too close to home. He nails the public private life part. Bravo Richard. Idc what any1 says, this was a well written work of art.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Juhi

    Hunger of Memory is about a Mexican American named Richard Rodriguez who goes to Sacremento to go to school. Not knowing much English he still wants to survive this new way of life and become something of himself. His family, his past, and his culture didn't support his dream of becoming a success. This story explains that Richard had to loose something in order to gain something, it explains how important a language is, how little things of a culture is important in a person. When you come into Hunger of Memory is about a Mexican American named Richard Rodriguez who goes to Sacremento to go to school. Not knowing much English he still wants to survive this new way of life and become something of himself. His family, his past, and his culture didn't support his dream of becoming a success. This story explains that Richard had to loose something in order to gain something, it explains how important a language is, how little things of a culture is important in a person. When you come into a different environment that has a different language and tradition rather than what you are you feel awkward, just like a stranger and you try to act like you are one of them, but when your back home you feel better because you dont have to pretend in front of people that you're something else. That's exactly what I go through when I go to India. Just because I wasn't born in India, doesn't mean I'm not Indian. When I try to speak Indian people laugh, but I understand the language fully. When I walk on the streets people stare at me as if I'm some tourist. That is what Richard feels like in school and in that sort of environment and he has feelings of regrets.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Ratzman

    “There are things so personal they can only be revealed to strangers.” For years I had condemned this book to the ‘conservative’ wing of American essays, but finally reading it, I’m pleasantly surprised. Decades ago Rodriguez a “comic victim of two cultures” gained some notoriety for opposing bilingual ed and affirmative action when to suggest so was heresy among liberals. Fine, but these essays are intriguing, intelligent and somber, unlike today’s mean-spirited and mindless right. This is a “There are things so personal they can only be revealed to strangers.” For years I had condemned this book to the ‘conservative’ wing of American essays, but finally reading it, I’m pleasantly surprised. Decades ago Rodriguez a “comic victim of two cultures” gained some notoriety for opposing bilingual ed and affirmative action when to suggest so was heresy among liberals. Fine, but these essays are intriguing, intelligent and somber, unlike today’s mean-spirited and mindless right. This is a story of a Mexican-American child who excels at reading, writing and, by his adulthood, alienating his simple parents. This is the author coming to be a public individual (English), so much so that he violates both his parents’ privacy (Spanish) and the collective needs of immigrants—i.e. heritage and Affirmative Action, but does so for interesting reasons that are worth disagreeing with. “Credo” is an excellent, assignable sketch of the different cultures of American Catholicism in the early 60s.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristl

    Richard Rodriguez is stellar at making you internalize the pathos that he pretty much writes in blood on the pages of his book. While the subject matter was interesting to me (Latino man finding his place in a country that does not accept him as he is), I could not relate much to flavor in which these sentiments were delivered. Rodriguez's personality is one that had to fight his way through his journey of change. This very bittersweet uphill struggle is believable and not out of order at all. I Richard Rodriguez is stellar at making you internalize the pathos that he pretty much writes in blood on the pages of his book. While the subject matter was interesting to me (Latino man finding his place in a country that does not accept him as he is), I could not relate much to flavor in which these sentiments were delivered. Rodriguez's personality is one that had to fight his way through his journey of change. This very bittersweet uphill struggle is believable and not out of order at all. I just don't personally need all that drama to make it from point A to point B, so I can't entirely understand someone who parades their need to do so all around the neatly-typed paragraphs of their story. Admittedly, if it wasn't for people like Rodriguez fighting the good fight, I may not be here in quite the same position I am today. Thank you fighters. It's just I prefer realized inspiration over guilted admiration.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    I liked this book, ok. I mean I liked it because it was well-written but overall, it was just ok. I thought at first he was devling into the transformation of immigrants until I was able to discuss this book with people of his ethnic background. They were angry with him. I was curious to find out why. It did change my view of the book but not by much. It still was a well written memoir. He still sounds like a douchebag when reflecting back on his family and the cultural stigmas he has had to I liked this book, ok. I mean I liked it because it was well-written but overall, it was just ok. I thought at first he was devling into the transformation of immigrants until I was able to discuss this book with people of his ethnic background. They were angry with him. I was curious to find out why. It did change my view of the book but not by much. It still was a well written memoir. He still sounds like a douchebag when reflecting back on his family and the cultural stigmas he has had to face throughout his career. I hope one day someone might write a rebuttal memoir to this memoir so I can read about the life of someone who didn't grow up to be someone with his head stuck up his ass trying to find the meaning of life through color.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lucero Nava

    This book has honestly become a sort of diary to me. Every single concept that Rodriguez writes about I can relate too. Many are surprised to see me so "into" a book of such topic. As a Mexican-american teenager, I can confidently say that this book is a true eye opener. I enjoy seeing the openness with which Rodriguez speaks about his life, his beliefs, and his struggles. The amount of possible meanings for each topic extend over a wide range, I enjoy the juxtaposition of him as a person. He is This book has honestly become a sort of diary to me. Every single concept that Rodriguez writes about I can relate too. Many are surprised to see me so "into" a book of such topic. As a Mexican-american teenager, I can confidently say that this book is a true eye opener. I enjoy seeing the openness with which Rodriguez speaks about his life, his beliefs, and his struggles. The amount of possible meanings for each topic extend over a wide range, I enjoy the juxtaposition of him as a person. He is awkwardly, some may say, placed in a world where he doesn't belong. I disagree, this book is proof that he has earned his position. It describes in detail his success and his failure. I recommend this book and can truthfully say that I will be rereading it often, if not on end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory is about the certain benefits and inevitable costs of getting higher education and the solitary life of a writer. His self-portraiture applies a rather austere and bleak and spartan writing style and voice and evokes an autobiographical speaker's convinced and convicted sense of melancholy, loss, loneliness, and lamentation. As a reader, I was kept away from getting too close for comfort and thus remained at an emotional and intellectual distance. Of course, Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory is about the certain benefits and inevitable costs of getting higher education and the solitary life of a writer. His self-portraiture applies a rather austere and bleak and spartan writing style and voice and evokes an autobiographical speaker's convinced and convicted sense of melancholy, loss, loneliness, and lamentation. As a reader, I was kept away from getting too close for comfort and thus remained at an emotional and intellectual distance. Of course, it could just be me. It could be me. Hunger and Memory, be mine.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marissa Rodriguez

    As a Mexican-American experiencing a similar childhood to Richard Rodriguez (my last name also being Rodriguez) I found this book extremely offensive. Despite the controversial aspect, fighting his culture vs. accepting it, the book consisted of constant complaints. This book presents an extremely negative view on Hispanic society. As a whole, I was extremely disappointed with the "renowned" Hunger of Memory.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dena

    Eloquent, evocative, powerful, painful memoir of the education and separation of the author from his culture and parents while attaining the "American dream".

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amris

    I'll get this out of the way: Richard Rodriguez is a fairly controversial figure. He is anti-affirmative action (his arguments are surprisingly intriguing- (view spoiler)[ he proposes that it further disenfranchises poor working class students in primary and secondary school by shifting the focus on students who-presumably- are privileged enough to successfully go through their K-12 education, instead of empowering working class students and restructuring inadequate school systems (hide spoiler) I'll get this out of the way: Richard Rodriguez is a fairly controversial figure. He is anti-affirmative action (his arguments are surprisingly intriguing- (view spoiler)[ he proposes that it further disenfranchises poor working class students in primary and secondary school by shifting the focus on students who-presumably- are privileged enough to successfully go through their K-12 education, instead of empowering working class students and restructuring inadequate school systems (hide spoiler)] ) and he's anti-bilingual education (yeah, I wasn't sold...) That said, I loved so much about this book. It may be because I share qualities with Rodriquez: We were both born in Sacramento, were raised in working class Catholic households, and I was a bookworm as a kid. "Hunger of Memory" describes growing up working class and Catholic better anything else I've ever read. While my experience as a white American is very different from Rodriguez's experiences as a first-generation Mexican American, I felt very connected by our similarities. There were times when I thought "That is exactly what I thought and didn't know how to say." When he described things I could never experience, I thought "That beautifully captures what I would imagine that would be like." I think that for those who do not share Rodriquez's experiences, he will seem cold at times, especially when discussing his family. However, I felt that Rodriguez gave a fair (if blunt) description of someone whose education changes the dynamics of the relationship one has with their family. It's tragic, and while Rodriguez's writing is very direct, one can see that he's in mourning for what was lost. (view spoiler)[ Like... there's a reason for the title... (hide spoiler)] TL;DR: Overall, the beauty of the writing trumped any quibbles I had with his politics, and while I've lived a very different life from Rodriguez, I found myself in a lot of his descriptions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    Richard Rodriguez is a man whose education bifurcated his life into a private life and a public life. In the public sphere he was driven to obtain an education that has led him to become one of the most interesting essayists of our time. His description of his inner life, especially his reading life is one of many exceptional aspects of this book. His liberation from the private sphere into the public, where he has become a literary light for others, was made possible in part by this reading Richard Rodriguez is a man whose education bifurcated his life into a private life and a public life. In the public sphere he was driven to obtain an education that has led him to become one of the most interesting essayists of our time. His description of his inner life, especially his reading life is one of many exceptional aspects of this book. His liberation from the private sphere into the public, where he has become a literary light for others, was made possible in part by this reading life; a life driven by a compulsion to become part of the "public sphere" that was centered in the culture apart from his family. This was a part of his life that I personally identified with and believe that many individuals who love the reading life will also. In this memoir he explores his own coming-of-age in an America that challenged him to understand what it is to be a Mexican American and what it is to be a Catholic in America. At the heart of the memoir is Rodríguez’s recognition that his is a position of alienation, a position that he accepts with resignation and regret. As the title of this collection of autobiographical pieces suggests, he remembers his early childhood with nostalgia, while acknowledging that his coming-of-age has resulted in his displacement from that simple, secure life. Another center for his autobiography is language and the importance of it in his life. He did not speak English until he started to go to school and even then it was difficult for him to learn the language for it was not spoken at home. One exciting moment in his education occurred when three nuns from his grade school visited his home and encouraged his parents to support their children's English language skills. Although they were indifferent speakers of English, his parents from that point forward asked their children, Richard and his brother and sisters, to speak English each evening. Richard, through this practice and his own diligence in reading and writing, would go on to major in English in college eventually doing postgraduate work in Renaissance Studies. He shares the hard work that all this entailed and his critical reaction to the growth of bi-lingual education. His courage in developing and maintaining an independent voice for his beliefs in this regard also help to make his story unique. In his view bilingual education prevents children from learning the public language that will be their passport to success in the public world, and he uses his own experience—being a bilingual child who was educated without bilingual education as it was introduced into the American school system in the 1960’s—as an example. Rodríguez offers himself as another example in criticizing affirmative action programs. Turning down offers to teach at various post secondary educational institutions that he believed wanted to hire him simply because he was Latino, Rodríguez began what has been his persistent criticism of affirmative action policies in America. His uncompromising position in this matter led him to leave academia and pursue his writing skills as a journalist and essayist. His devotion to education in language and life helped him develop the voice that he shares in his journalistic and readable prose style. I first encountered his voice while watching the News Hour on PBS where he was an essayist for many years. The style he demonstrated there is present on every page of his autobiography. I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in the development of a humane intellectual.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    It's interesting re-reading this with a knowledge of Rodriguez's later development. When it was published, it was typically misapprehended as a kind of right wing attack on affirmative action. To a very limited extent that's true--Rodriguez rejects much of the way the policy was conceived in the late 60s and early 70s. But he's very clear that he does so because affirmative action, unless very carefully calibrated, may not benefit those who really need it. The bottom line is that class is what It's interesting re-reading this with a knowledge of Rodriguez's later development. When it was published, it was typically misapprehended as a kind of right wing attack on affirmative action. To a very limited extent that's true--Rodriguez rejects much of the way the policy was conceived in the late 60s and early 70s. But he's very clear that he does so because affirmative action, unless very carefully calibrated, may not benefit those who really need it. The bottom line is that class is what matters most and that programs to aid those who risk being shut out need to begin very early--Head Start (or earlier). He is most definitely *not* making the heroic individualist pitch that says anyone who doesn't make it has only themselves to blame. There's a great deal more to the book than the politics, which are difficult to translate to the contemporary situation. Rodriguez reflects on the complications of bilingual education, emphasizing the difference between public and intimate languages. Again, however, the book as a whole resists simplification into an "anti-bilingual education" statement. By the end, he's asserting the possibility of articulating intimate experience in public forums, which is more or less the nature of memoir. At times, I lose patience with him, usually when he's making definitive statements that distort the positions of those he's arguing with. (When he says proponents of affirmative action didn't understand the need to start early, not just concentrate on college admissions, he's simply wrong.) But he's always worth listening to and he'll force almost everyone to sharpen their arguments. And, as I wrote at the beginning, the book reads very differently as the point of departure for the complicated journey charted in his subsequent books. Before you quote Hunger of Memory as a reflection of Rodriguez's positions, triangulate with what follows.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Connor Sperling

    Hunger of Memory is the personal account of Richard Rodriguez's troubles of being a bilingual student growing up in America. He questions the teaching approach that is used with bilingual students, as he believes that bilingual students should be educated with the public language, as not focusing enough on the public, in his situation English, and his first known language, Spanish, does not prepare him, as well as others, for the public world and does not give the bilingual student a fair Hunger of Memory is the personal account of Richard Rodriguez's troubles of being a bilingual student growing up in America. He questions the teaching approach that is used with bilingual students, as he believes that bilingual students should be educated with the public language, as not focusing enough on the public, in his situation English, and his first known language, Spanish, does not prepare him, as well as others, for the public world and does not give the bilingual student a fair chance. He also explains how his education made him lose a connection to his family and culture. His parents supported him though, as they wanted him to be accustomed to American society. He would surpass all blockades, eventually earning his way to a Ph.D in English Renaissance Literature. Another topic Richard Rodriguez addresses is the Roman Catholic Church and its style of teaching. Comparing what he was taught before his Roman Catholicism days, he regrets losing what he had previously learned, but accepts reality. He also criticizes american affirmative action policies, as he believed he was offered certain jobs and positions only due to the fact that he was an educated Latino. I found this novel not very interesting, as I have not been in his shoes. I believe this novel is one more intended for persons who have gone through the troubles of Richard Rodriguez, for which I have not. I found many individual facts and scenes to create a spark of interest, but overall this book was not for me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Simon Cleveland, PhD

    I return to this book 8 years after I read if for the first time. Within minutes I find myself recalling the Sunday brunches my parents used to prepare for our entire family, the joyful sounds of my growing up in Virginia, after spending my early years in Eastern Europe. I intimately know the things Mr. Rodriguez writes about, because I've experienced them. The book itself is an abstract approach to the original structure of an autobiography. It lacks the voluminous accounts of monthly or yearly I return to this book 8 years after I read if for the first time. Within minutes I find myself recalling the Sunday brunches my parents used to prepare for our entire family, the joyful sounds of my growing up in Virginia, after spending my early years in Eastern Europe. I intimately know the things Mr. Rodriguez writes about, because I've experienced them. The book itself is an abstract approach to the original structure of an autobiography. It lacks the voluminous accounts of monthly or yearly accomplishments (Colin Powell `My American Journey' or Bill Clinton's `My Life' come to mind). Rather, the author takes on a path of moral reflection on the time it took one boy to become a man and the education it took to transform one's identity. He assembles a combination of essays through which via a free flowing narrative, he conducts self-examination over the emergence of his `public' character and the replacement of his `private' persona. But there is something else in this book. There is longing. Longing for the days when the 'sounds' of his family brought meaning and recognition for what he was meant to be, for where he was meant to go (or was that a childhood illusion?). A reader would find it difficult to ignore the author's emotional yearning for the past for a childhood now gone, when love, and family, and values, and identity made sense. Mr. Rodriguez has done a superb job of capturing with words what many of us (first or second generation Americans) feel as members of families with similar backgrounds. I highly recommend this book.

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