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I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,807 ratings  ·  428 reviews
This book recounts the remarkable life of Rigoberta Menchú , a young Guatemalan peasant woman. Her story reflects the experiences common to many Indian communities in Latin America today. Rigoberta suffered gross injustice and hardship in her early life: her brother, father and mother were murdered by the Guatemalan military. She learned Spanish and turned to catechist wor ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published July 17th 1985 by Verso (first published September 1st 1983)
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May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Reading through some of the reviews written by others, I've found that David Stoll's indictment of Menchu for not adhering to the "pure facts" is still alive and well in the academy. There seems to be a tendency to ignore some very important factors that lead to the creation of this book, particularly the genre, testimony, and the nature of memory itself.

Testimony, or testimonio, is a literary genre that in many cases (although certainly not all) involves a testimoniante (one who testifies) and
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
If you go into this book without knowing what it is, there's sortof a plot twist halfway through that's one of the better ones I've read. It's a true story! I just didn't predict this woman's reaction to her life.

For the first half of the book, it's an oral history of a young peasant in Guatemala. She seems nice. Her life is desperate; she's poor and exploited by a racist government. She tells heartbreaking stories. Her baby brother was strapped to his mother's back as she worked on a finca (pla
Oct 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
This book is a memoir of Rigoberta Menchu's childhood and later years in Guatemala as an Indian woman. According to her story, she grew up uneducated in a small community with very strong rules and traditions. Her people, the Indians, were in conflict with the Ladinos (specifically the wealthy) for many years. As a result, her father, mother, and several siblings died.

After reading this book, I found out that she had fabricated many important details in the story. On the very FIRST page, she te
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a raw and powerful memoir of life as a member of the impoverished and exploited class. In 1983, a young indigenous Guatemalan woman narrated her story to an anthropologist. She tells of growing up in an isolated mountain community, so isolated that none spoke Spanish or another indigenous language. Illiterate, shoeless, often hungry, she tells of working from dawn to dusk to eke out a small crop, of working on coffee and cotton plantations under slave conditions, and of the gradual radic ...more
Francesca Helm
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had been looking for a book related to Guatemala as am travelling there and this seemed like an obvious one but got totally put off after reading various reviews. After talking to people here in Guatemala, who say despite any inaccuracies (lies critics say) and despite her subsequent political career which is also somewhat controversial here - her book really brought world attention to the Mayan cause and is an incredibly important book to read, I bought it. Though clearly not 'great literature' ...more
Suzanne moodhe
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I know all about the controversy - did she write the book? Didn't she? The point is that whether or not all of these things happened in particular to this one woman, Rigoberta Menchu, but whether or not they happened to not only her but women that she knew. I believe that this is a collection of events that happened all around her - and having lived in Guatemala for a short period and seen the reconstruction efforts of the Mayan people after the war that was waged on them during the 80's with Jo ...more
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who enjoy their liberal white guilt
Recommended to Mir by: required for a class
Shelves: realism, the-americas
I read this in Spanish for Spanish class. I may have been unduly hostile towards it because I knew ahead of time that it was not actually Menchu's autobiography.
Apr 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: advisory-2
This book with an incredibly uncreative title is a falsified memoir by Rigoberta Menchu. The book describes a poor family who was forced to work and work until they got fired and then the Guatemalan army came in and destroyed their lives. First, Rigo's brother got killed and tortured in a completely unsituational way, and then her father got killed. After that, her mother was caught and raped. Then, she had to run away to America. This book at first made me feel pity for the narrator but eventua ...more
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book recounts the life of a remarkable young peasant woman who endeavoured through exteme hardships, to make a political commitment to bring change to the lives of the Guatemalan people. Her father, an activist, her hard working mother and a young brother were all tortured & murdered by the military. The descriptions of injustices suffered leave the reader forever scarred.
Rigoberta learned Spanish so she would be able to tell her story. (one apparently common to most of the 23 Indian commun
Aug 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Read this book a long time ago, when I was in Berkeley in the 1980s, it was kinda de rigeur. Just picked it up again from the bathroom reading pile in the house in Vancouver where I'm renting a room for the year (my new roomie is really active in native radical politics). I hadn't given much thought to the book since I heard the news that Menchu fictionalized certain parts of it, wanted to see if I still found it powerful. I did. Not so much for the politics, which even when I read it the first ...more
Nov 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 10th-grade
This book is about an Indian women living in Guatemala. This book was ridiculously sad and later I learned that some of the events that took place didn't happen and that she over exaggerated which made me feel so betrayed because she's a liar and I don't like that. This book is an autobiography about her life and the hardships she had to overcome.
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rigoberta Menchú's I, Rigoberta Menchu - An Indian Woman In Guatemala is a combination autobiography and description of the Maya guerrilla movement that mobilized to combat the military government during the period of 1970-1996.

The book begins with detailed descriptions of a Quiché Maya upbringing, discussing the lives of men and women living in small rural altiplano villages. Gradually, as Ladino landowners employ the army to steal the land farmed by the Maya, and force them to pick coffee and
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I once heard Ms Menchu speak at a conference. She was always smiling. How could she smile when she has lived a horrendous life?! So, I wanted to read her story.

This was written in 1982 (give or take a year) during the Guatemala's Civil War. This is her story about living and working in the antiplano (highlands) of Guatemala. It was a tough life. She had no formal schooling and she worked at such a young age. She had no childhood. She worked in the finca's (large estates growing cotton and coffee
Sep 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: grown ups
Shelves: 10th
one of those books that are sad and leaves nightmares. The book written by Rigoberta Menchu tells the world of the cruelty that went in Guatemala as the "Silent Holocaust", a genocide upon the Indians in Guatemala. The conflict all start off when the new president took land from the rich to give to the poor as a civil rights movement, but a US Fruit company disliked the idea and took the US gov. that communist activity was going on in Guatemala, therefore triggered the genocide...

The peasants (i
In 1983 Elisabeth Burgos met the 23-year-old Rigoberta Menchu and spent a week interviewing her and made that into this book, which is partly autobiography and partly 'testimonial' speaking for the experience of the whole Indian community of Guatemala [[60% of the popul. is pure Mayan, tho divided into 3 language groups and many smaller subgroups:]. [Book transl. into English by Ann Wright.:]

Horrifying how the mountain peasants are exploited by plantation owners on the coasts, living in subhuman
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Profoundly beautiful and charming, Menchú’s narrative never fails to get me in a really weird mood. Coming from dirt poor ladino farmers on my mother’s side, I never fail to hear the resonating echo of state abuse and land expropriation that underwrites so much of what I’ve heard of my grandmother’s childhood. While I genuinely, genuinely detest the phrase “brought tears to my eyes” (because, in my humble opinion, if it applies to fucking “Infinite Jest” or Knausgaard’s “Struggle” your outlook o ...more
Ling Juan
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is about Rigoberta, her family and her community. They were going through a harsh, grief and tragic time. They are Indians that lives high up in a mountain with no fertile lands. Oneday the landowners decided to get back their lands because the Indians started to have crops. Rigoberta and her community thought of traps that will prevent the people from coming into their lands. During this period, a lot of people stuffer from torture and death, including Rigoberta's mom, dad and brothe ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spanish
This story of Rigoberta is inspiring and enlightening. This is the kind of book they should make everyone read. Its about an unsung hero at least in the eyes of the world. We, white upperclass latinos, don't know much about the plight of the the Indians. In fact, we are kept from this information, systematically. The information is out there, but you need to find it.
Rigoberta, was just another quiet submissive indian girl in Guatemala. One day, she became the voice of the indians, and a long lin
Jane Mettee
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the auto biography of an Indian woman who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992. It tells about her life of severe poverty and harassment, killing and torture, of the Indian people by factions of the Guatemalan government that was engaged in civil war. She devoted her life to resistance and support for her people. She dictated the book to get it into print and get the message out to the world. Tragic but interesting and important message.
Dec 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE!
Recommended to Tari by: A sociology class
If I could give a book a -, I would. It was most frustrating to read this book for a class knowing that the horror written about was found to be a lie. Yuk! Plus, she won such an honor for a book that was untrue about her life. Pathetic!
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is both a beautiful and chilling personal narrative. Rigoberta begins with explanations of her Quiché culture and her family dynamic, transitioning into documentation of the atrocities committed by the Guatemalan government against indigenous peoples, and finally into the narrative of her own rise to activism and community mobilization. It is simply told, in the vocabulary of about 5th or 6th grade, since Rigoberta is speaking in her second or third language, which was of course translated ...more
I think this has been one of the more important books I've read. Menchu goes into detail about the struggles Guatamalan indigenous people experience and the colonizing powers that be. The beginning of the book details her culture while the middle and end discuss the horrors that she and others have experienced.
Dec 02, 2019 added it
I don't think I can really give this a star review--this is an oral history of Menchu's life, and it's not really edited or formatted in a way that makes the reading flow easy to be blunt. To review it would be to review her life which is completely unfair.
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The way indigenous people all over the World were/are treated makes me sick. I’ll always, always stand in solidarity with them whether it be here, in the Americas, Australia etc.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Her strength. Her commitment. Her resilience. Her love for her community and peoples. Truly and genuinely awe inspiring. Rigoberta is a revolutionary organizer like no other.
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: guatemala
Amazing story. The two takeaways are that discounting the importance of grassworks organizing in favor of NGO work (do people do this? I mean, I guess I do implicitly) is cementheaded and that our government has blood in its hands that had been rendered largely invisible. I don’t think I talked about our “work” in Central America once in high school or college. Point two ties back to point one.

This book is hard to read. It’s clearly a transcribed, translated interview, and shouldn’t be anything
Terri Lynn
While I found the story interesting, this is supposed to be Rigoberta Menchu's autobiography and my standard for autobiography is that it should be TRUE and HONEST yet this is nothing but a pack of lies and that taints the story. I had to read this for a graduate school seminar and fortunately the university allowed us to write papers about the controversy rather than accept the book as factual.

A few years after the book came out, David Stoll (he has his doctorate from Stanford University) was
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I fully recognize that Menchu's voice--conversational, unpretentious, emphatic--is what draws most readers to I, Rigoberta Menchu. At the same time, I found it the most grating aspect of the book, full as it was of contradictions, superlatives, and simply repetitive insistences on the positive aspects of her culture and the crimes committed by her country during the Guatemalan Civil War. Which isn't to say, of course, that I don't think she has every right to tell this story; the crimes she righ ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: life-history
I took an anthropology seminar called Narrative Lives in which the first half of the semester was spent reading 3 life-histories followed by another book that evaluated, or bluntly stated, debunked much of the narrator and interviewer's credibility. I, Rigoberta Menchu was the third life-history we read, and I was completely touched by her eloquent story-telling, and her dreadfully touching and powerful struggle. I remember sitting outside, near done with the book, and dreading reading David Sto ...more
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Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Spanish pronunciation: [riɣoˈβerta menˈtʃu], born 9 January 1959) is an indigenous Guatemalan woman, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize and Prince o ...more

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