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 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.
summer. Resume my life as a boy of thirteen. There are people who tell me today that they are not religious because they consider religion to be an evasion of life. I hear them, their assurance, and do not bother to challenge the arrogance of a secular world which hasn’t courage enough to accept the fact of old age. And death. I know people who speak of death with timorous euphemisms of ‘passing away.’ I have friends who wouldn’t think of allowing their children to attend a funeral for fear of
nationals who were licensed to work for American farmers in the 1950s. They worked very hard for very little money, my father would tell me. And what money they earned they sent back to Mexico to support their families, my mother would add. Los pobres—the poor, the pitiful, the powerless ones. But paradoxically also powerful men. They were the men with brown-muscled arms I stared at in awe on Saturday mornings when they showed up downtown like gypsies to shop at Woolworth’s or Penney’s. On Monday
considering social oppression. The public conscience was enlarged. Americans were able to take seriously, say, the woman business executive’s claim to be the victim of social oppression. But with this advance there was a danger. It became easy to underestimate, even to ignore altogether, the importance of class. Easy to forget that those whose lives are shaped by poverty and poor education (cultural minorities) are least able to defend themselves against social oppression, whatever its form. In
never had any chance before. CHAPTER SIX MR. SECRETS I am writing about those very things my mother has asked me not to reveal. Shortly after I published my first autobiographical essay seven years ago, my mother wrote me a letter pleading with me never again to write about our family life. ‘Write about something else in the future. Our family life is private.’ And besides: ‘Why do you need to tell the gringos about how “divided” you feel from the family?’ I sit at my desk now,
with bogus private language. My father opens a newspaper to find an article by a politician’s wife in which she reveals (actually, renders merely as gossip) intimate details of her marriage. And he looks up from the article to ask me, ‘Why does she do this?’ I find his question embarrassing. Although I know that he does not intend to embarrass me, I am forced to think about this book I have been writing. And I realize that my parents will be as puzzled by my act of self-revelation as they are by