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I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala First Edition Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0860917885
ISBN-10: 0860917886
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The stuff of everyday life in a Guatemalan Indian community. A fascinating and moving description of the culture of an entire people”—Times

Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; First Edition edition (June 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860917886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860917885
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on January 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
"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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: 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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It's a good book that describes the struggles of the Mayan population in Guatemala. It is best to read in conjunction with different articles that criticize this book and also the foreword. This was not written by Rigoberta and it is important to consider the politics of translation as well as transcription. She gave her testimony to Elizabeth Burgos, who collected the information from the interview in Spanish and created the text. At the time when Rigoberta gave her testimony, she only had been speaking Spanish for three years.

I read this for one of my college classes at Princeton and I just discussed this book at my book club.

Another thing to consider is the genre that this book falls in. It is not a memoir or an autobiography. It falls under the category of latin american literature known as tesimonio. This differs from the direct translation of testimony. I recommend readers do some research on the politics of testimonio and whether or not all that is said is needed to be true.

It is a great book to start a conversation on the politics of ethnicity and whether books like these are needed to be entirely truthful or factual!
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