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Hunger of Memory : The Education of Richard Rodriguez Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1983

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Editorial Reviews


“Arresting ... Splendidly written intellectual autobiography.”—Boston Globe

“Superb autobiographical essay ... Mr. Rodriguez offers himself as an example of the long labor of change: its costs, about which he is movingly frank, its loneliness, but also its triumph.”—New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

Hunger Of Memory is the story of a 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 is 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.

"Arresting...Splendidly written intellectual autobiography." -- Boston Globe

"Superb autobiographical essay... Mr. Rodriguez offers himself as an example if the long labor of change: its costs, about which he is movingly frank, its loneliness, but also its triumph." -- The New York Times Book Review


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Later Printing (20th and over) edition (February 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553272934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553272932
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In this autobiographical work, the author attempts to put forth his views on a number of topics within a personal context. He does this within the framework of his being Mexican-American. His parsing of the effect that education had on his life is both interesting and food for thought. While education provided a means of connecting to the world outside his cultural enclave, it also created a distance between him and his cultural roots. As he assimilated into the larger world outside his immediate cultural milieu, it created a divide between him and his parents. As they remained in their self-contained, unassimilated world, only their mutual love for each other was able to bridge the chasm that education created, for figuratively they no longer spoke the same language.

Likewise, the impact and influence that his early Catholic parochial school experience had on him resonated with me, as I myself was a product of such schooling. His reminiscences brought back many memories for me, most of them positive ones, despite some of the obvious pitfalls inherent in that sometimes narrow, parochial education framework that often favored rote learning over intellectual or critical thinking. Indeed, his love of reading, as is mine, emanated from that early educational experience, which greatly emphasized reading. The impact and influence that Catholicism had on him had are fertile grounds for discussion in the context of liturgical reform and its effects upon community. As a Catholic having lived through the reforms initiated by Vatican II, I understand and appreciate his analysis on the demystification of the liturgy and the loss of the mystical in its transition from Latin into a vernacular language in its celebration of the concept of community.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Vance Packard, in researching his book "The Status Seekers," found that upward mobility in the United States was much more difficult than Americans would like to believe, and that those who were successful made it largely by cutting ties to their roots. Although framed in the context of ethnicity--Richard Rodriguez' book makes that same point. Moving up from working class to upper middle class promised success and acceptance and self-respect, but getting there was a little like edging out onto the ice, feeling inadequate and fearful that at any moment he might fall through. This book will resonate with anyone--immigrant or not, minority or not--who has made such a journey. Rodriguez scathingly criticizes affirmative action and bi-lingual education programs, correctly identifying the first as promoting socially crippling labels--"disadvantaged minority"--and the second as an obstacle to what he sees as the keys to success in America--a solid education and learning to speak and write English well. Rodriguez discovers early on what many of those with romantic notions about their ethnic or racial heritage eventually come to realize--that he is an American. But in the sadness he feels at the growing distance between himself and his parents, he fails--and several previous reviewers of this book fail--to note one very important thing. Upward mobility occurs incrementally, not in one leap. Rodriguez was put in a position to get that excellent education, to learn to speak unaccented English, and to become a respected author and scholar by parents who left Mexico and the little homogeneous Catholic towns and moved to the United States. In short, by parents who had cut the ties to their own roots.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.

-by Simon Cleveland
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