Richard Rodriquez: The Hunger of Memory

Essay by Jason HammesUniversity, Master's January 2005

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Richard Rodriquez: The Hunger of Memory

In studying the social aspects of assimilation of Latin American culture into the United States, Richard Rodriquez' autobiographical novel, The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriquez deals with challenges he faced learning not only a new language and culture, but striving to maintain a cohesive relationship with his family. His parents and siblings also had to come to terms with their new hybridized identities, yet remain connected to family members who still residing[resided] in Mexico. Rodriquez has written a personal narrative about his struggle to find both inner harmony and social assimilation into a new culture as a Mexican born in America. The challenges of discrimination and dealing with a dominant view that the English language must be mastered in order to become an academic and socially acceptable success, was of paramount importance to Rodriquez' parents.

Rodriquez was born in San Francisco [,] and his story is unusual because his ultimate success at meeting these challenges was juxtaposed with his failure to communicate with his Spanish-speaking friends and relatives.

His story is about becoming ultimately comfortable with his duality,[and] determining and developing an identity.

"I grew up victim to a disabling confusion, as I grew fluent in English, I no longer could speak Spanish with confidence...Each time I'd hear myself addressed in Spanish, I would be unable to respond with any success. I'd know the words I wanted to say, but couldn't manage to say them. I would try to speak, but everything I said seemed to me horribly Anglicized. My mouth would not form the words right. My jaw would tremble. After a phrase or two, I'd cough up a warm, silvery sound. And stop." (Rodriquez 229-230)

Rodriquez learned English at an early age, encouraged by Mexican speaking parents to become...