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199 of 231 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "biomythography" that deserves attention
"I, Rigoberta Menchu" is one of those books which seems to be overshadowed by controversy. A Quiche Mayan woman of Guatemala, Rigoberta Menchu told her story orally to anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray in Paris in 1982. Burgos-Debray transcribed the story and published in Spanish in 1983; Ann Wright's English translation appeared in 1984. The book, which...
Published on January 4, 2001 by Michael J. Mazza

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Now Classic Example of Modern Socialistic Propaganda...
As has been described in other one-star reviews, this fiction is not a true account or documentary, as it purports to be-and thus, yet another example of the Left creating a narrative to suit its illogical and tendentious world view. (See David Stoll's Rigoberta Menchu for the definitive refutation.) That Ms. Menchu would still retain her Nobel after these revelations...
Published 1 month ago by Il Padrone


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199 of 231 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "biomythography" that deserves attention, January 4, 2001
"I, Rigoberta Menchu" is one of those books which seems to be overshadowed by controversy. A Quiche Mayan woman of Guatemala, Rigoberta Menchu told her story orally to anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray in Paris in 1982. Burgos-Debray transcribed the story and published in Spanish in 1983; Ann Wright's English translation appeared in 1984. The book, which both gave a voice to the Native American culture of Guatemala and exposed the brutality of Guatemala's civil war, became an international sensation. Menchu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Anthropologist David Stoll later uncovered evidence of inconsistencies within Menchu's story. Conservative cultural activists interpreted Stoll's research as discrediting Menchu's story. For example, David Horowitz blasted Menchu as a "liar" and further condemned "I, Rigoberta Menchu" as "one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century." Many derided such attacks on Rigoberta as politically motivated and intellectually dishonest.
I think that "I, Rigoberta Menchu" has, perhaps, been misunderstood and misused by people on both sides of the left/right political divide. And so, for that matter, has the work of David Stoll. While he is sharply critical of the book in his own work, "Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans," Stoll also corroborates parts of her story. In fact, at the end of his own book Stoll praises "I, Rigoberta Menchu" as a Guatemalan "national epic" (p. 283).
Because of all of the accusations and counter-accusations being thrown around by people with conflicting political and intellectual agendas, it is daunting to even approach "I, Rigoberta Menchu." Nevertheless, I agree with David Stoll that this book is an authentic national epic of Guatemala; I also believe that it is a book which deserves to be read.
I look at "I, Rigoberta Menchu" as a "biomythography." African-American author Audre Lorde used this term to describe her own autobiographical narrative, "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name." Think of a biomythography as a life story that combines fact with fictionalized, borrowed, or adapted materials in an attempt to arrive at greater truths. I don't mean to suggest that Menchu, or anyone, for that matter, should be excused for misrepresenting facts. But it seems to me that "I, Rigoberta Menchu" gives the reader clues that it is a "biomythography" from the first page of the first chapter: Rigoberta says of her story "I didn't learn it alone," and further stresses that "it's not only my life, it's also the testimony of my people."
And if you approach the book carefully, you will discover a powerful and fascinating text. It is impossible in the space of a short review to cover all of the highlights of "I, Rigoberta Menchu." But a few include her description of the interactions among the diverse ethnic groups of Guatemala, her account of Quiche Mayan religious beliefs and practices, and her descriptions of such everyday activities as making tortillas. Particularly fascinating is her account of how Guatemalan revolutionaries interpreted parts of the Bible in order to aid their struggle; at the end of Chapter XVII she describes the Bible as the "main weapon" of her comrades.
Yes, Rigoberta has a political agenda. But so did Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X; this does not diminish the value of their autobiographies as both literary texts and historical documents. My advice is to read both "I, Rigoberta Menchu" and David Stoll's biography of Menchu. Read commentaries on the controversy from all parts of the political spectrum. And read other texts about the violence in Guatemala and in other countries rocked by political strife and ethnic tension. And finally, draw your own conclusions about the book.
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65 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is NOT an autobiography, February 2, 2000
By 
Kurt (New Brunswick, NJ) - See all my reviews
Many of those who criticize Ms. Menchu's work subscribe to the fallacy that "I, Rigoberta Menchu" is an autobiography. After David Stoll published "Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans," Ms. Menchu responded, "'Yo, Rigoberta Menchu' no fue una autobiografia, sino un testimonio." ("'I, Rigoberta Menchu was not an autobiography, but rather a testimony.") Marc Zimmerman, an expert on Guatemalan resistance literature, has stated that testimonial literature implicitly contains the possibility of "other voices." In essence, Ms. Menchu aimed to speak for her community rather than herself. The idea of the collective voice is a well-known characteristic of Mayan culture. There is also a level of common sense that eludes many of Ms. Menchu's critics. Assuming that the book is an autobiography, does it really matter that one of Ms. Menchu's brothers was actually shot by the army instead of burnt alive. This hairsplitting does not conceal the fact that the Guatemalan military committed such atrocities in the death of over 200,000 Guatemalans and the destruction of over 400 villages. "I, Rigoberta Menchu" played a pivotal role in bringing international attention to the plight of Guatemala, which, as Stoll himself acknowledges, few other people could have done. The real question raised by Stoll's book is not who died where and how, but does Rigoberta Menchu truly represent "all poor Guatemalans." To understand Guatemalan history in the early 1980s, I recommend Jennifer Schirmer's "The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy" and Stoll's more persuasive work, "Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala." "I, Rigoberta Menchu" has its faults but it is a superb introduction to the debate over recent Guatemalan history.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just 2 or so hours South of Miami!, January 10, 2006
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It is incredible that such human suffering went on, and in many ways is still going on, just a couple of hours (by pane) away from where I live. Rigoberta Menchu's book, written as dictated by her, is sad and tells of horrible situations.

Guatemala is a beautiful country, the indigenous sill dress in their local garb, each unique to a particular village. Guatemala has been referred to as the most exotic country in the Western hemisphere.

A good friend of mine, a Guatemala Indian, told me about the efforts of the Indians to get help from the United States. They sought out various Native American tribes in the U.S., that to them was seeking help from America. From what he told, it never occured to the elders of the Guatemalan groups to approach anyone other than Native Americans. And they did not receive help, because help was not available. But had they approached the U.S. government, they most likely wouldn't have been helped either.

I have been in Guatemala so many times, I started to call it my second home. There is still a lot of oppression, and the indigenous still feel fearful of the police and the military. I have not been there in a couple of years and am yearning to return.

The last time, the police/military made great efforts to change their image. Instead of stopping trucks and harrassing the passengers, they handed out white carnations!

Menchu does not deal with the greatest problem that is keeping the indigenous in danger, that of language barrier. The Guatemala Indians speak over 20 local languages. The languages are so totally different, that communication is impossible. Though some books are written in the local languages, they cannot be read by the indigenous because they are illiterate. Division is a "great" tool to keep populations from binding together to fight a common evil. Spanish is the country's political language, but over 80% of the indigenous do not speak Spanish.

I have traveled into the villages, into the hills and mountains where customs as ancient as the peoples themselves still reign. All of them have experienced evil. Their story did not end with Menchu's book. It continues, and who knows how much longer it will continue.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book of survival, December 29, 2006
I read this book years ago and re-read it again recently. It is still one of my favorite books. Rigoberta Menchu suffered unbelievable atrocities and incredible losses and still lived to tell her courageous story through an interpreter. I think the book is phenomenal and I recommend it to anyone with a heart. It helps explain a lot about the Guatamalen people and their strife. It also is a timely book since the illegal immigration debate rages on in this country on a daily basis. It paints a vivid picture of the suffering of indigenous peoples and helps us to relate to their need to escape their countries in search of a better life. I dont know what David Stoll had to gain by writing a book that contradicted Menchu's powerful account. She states at the beginning of her book that her perspective is hers alone and that her memories may have been clouded by the trauma. It makes me crazy when people pick apart one tiny aspect of a book and then, throw the entire thing out as a sham. The same thing happened with the James Frey book, A million little pieces. People tended to ignore the overall strengths of the book and his basic message of surviving drug addiction over a few little insignificant details. This book is the same situation. The overall message and story of rigoberta menchu is so powerful and moving, it must be read, even if there is a fact or two that someone wants to contradict.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I, Rigoberta criticism detracts from the realities this book portrays, September 7, 2012
This review is from: I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (Paperback)
I, Rigoberta criticism detracts from the realities this book portrays. When I read this book, the way Rigoberta speaks reminds me of the way my father would talk about his upbringing in Guatemala. Although my dad's point of view is from a different perspective than Rigoberta, The repetition and vivid accounts of life in Guatemala remind me of the tales my father would tell my brothers and I. Every time he would retell a story of being in jail in El Pavon, of stealing food to survive, a new detail emerged, often it would be mixed with religious/mythic reflection, over the top generalizations, and of course viewed from a long distance since we were living a new life in the North.

I Rigoberta is a conversation, and as such the person speaking isnt always checking her diary or wikipedia to check that how she remembers it is 100% correct. But the emotions, the repression she felt and the horrors she witnessed are told to us from an honest place.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable, June 15, 2006
I read this book shortly before visiting Guatemala, and I have to say it made my travel experience alot richer. I felt more sensitized to the currents of racism and political struggle still present in the country, as well as to the pain of a people recovering from a horror in the not so distant past. Nearly every Guatemalan that I met had some powerful story of the genocide, and this book gave me a good background on the facts and politics behind the peasant struggle.

Though it has been criticized as being imbellished and realistically inaccurate, I think that it can still be used as a tool to learn about the native Quiche culture in past and present times. Their spiritual and political beliefs and their connections to the natural world are interwoven throughout the memoir. And most importantly, the horror of a major Latin American genocide that still scars the memories of peasants in the region today. Rigoberta was very matter of fact in sharing information about the torture and killing of her people in gruesome detail... so detailed that it was difficult to read at times, but nevertheless, essential in understanding the extent of the what happened to her people.

Whether you read this book as fact or historical fiction, I think it is a good read for anyone interested in Latin American history, politcal science, peasant cultures, or human rights. It is a story that will stick in your mind... and your heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Now Classic Example of Modern Socialistic Propaganda..., October 25, 2014
This review is from: I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (Paperback)
As has been described in other one-star reviews, this fiction is not a true account or documentary, as it purports to be-and thus, yet another example of the Left creating a narrative to suit its illogical and tendentious world view. (See David Stoll's Rigoberta Menchu for the definitive refutation.) That Ms. Menchu would still retain her Nobel after these revelations speaks volumes to the standards held by and political correctness found in modern Nobel Prize committees; she remains, with Yasser Arafat and Barack Obama, among the most obviously undeserving contemporary winners.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good work of fiction, October 7, 2013
This review is from: I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (Paperback)
I read this book in grad school. There is so much to be considered about the information presented in this text. It reads more like a biography. However, years ago it was confirmed that this is actually a work on fiction.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Read, November 11, 2003
(This is both a review and a response to Michael J. Mazza's book review located above).
I think the above Mazza review is pretty smart and well articulated and would like to make one further point. Rigoberta is Quiche Mayan which means part of what others see as inconsistency is just her faith in an old but thriving religion that others know little about. The Maya are a highly spiritual people. They behave in a way that even after living in Chiapas and Guatemala (both Mayan areas) for two years I cannot truly understand or anticipate. So when you say that she mixes fiction and reality to arrive at an even greater truth I think you're failing to realize the depths of her commitment to the spirit. She wouldn't say that any of the things you term "fictions?are fictions at all. Here's an example: almost all Quiche women wear huipils ?a traditional dress. To the non-Indian eye this looks like it is decorated with geometric patterns. To the Mayan eye they see the history of the world. This mindset is real. The history of the world is a cosmic history.

I see the problem with readings of "I, Rigoberta Menchu" an unfortunate and underestimated cultural misunderstanding. The term itself makes me quiver because of its recent overuse and thus lack of meaning. But I think the mindset of the average Mayan and the average American are virtually irreconcilable. This difference, I suggest, is part of the cause for gross misunderstanding the CIA had of the Mayan Indians. With all this talk we fail to keep in mind that the violence was real, there was a CIA-coup that installed a dictator.
Regardless of what you think about her integrity, this book is an essential read. It's a shame that such an vital tale has been hindered by the political talk around it. Politics, namely the CIA in the 50s, caused this problem in the first place. See How Holocausts Happen or Bitter Fruit for more information on this.
The Maya do not get the exposure or credit they deserve. The Maya give civilization many things that we take for granted including chocolate and the tomato. So let's open our ears a bit and pay attention to the way other people think before we judge them. With a little more sensitivity the world might be a bit more peaceful.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous Mayan Woman fought the Genocidal Guatemalan Military and Government for her People, July 16, 2013
By 
Jean Tanguma (Arvada, CO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (Paperback)
Wonderful book about the struggle of the Mayan people in Guatemala in the 1980's. Amazing that over 200,000 Indians were killed by the government and the military with the support of the US government. Menchu is very humble. Her story is incredibly painful. She lost both parents in the struggle, also her brothers. This is an extremely moving story. It helps one understand why Rios Montt, former President of Guatemala, was recently convicted of genocide of over 1,000 Mayans and sentenced to jail for the rest of his life. The first time a former president has been tried and convicted of genocide in his own country.
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I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu (Paperback - January 12, 2010)
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