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Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

3.3  ·  Rating details ·  2,415 Ratings  ·  258 Reviews
Hunger of Memory is the story of 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 of a “minority student” who pays the cost of his social assimilation and academic success
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published (first published 1981)
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Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural
Ok. So I did not enjoy this book, not because it was a terrible book, but because it angered me. I am Americanized and I try my very best to learn as much about my culture as possible. I want to embrace my culture and the fact that there is someone out there who wants to throw theirs away (when they know how to speak their language fluently and know their culture by nature) angers me. Maybe, then, it is a really good book because it got a response from me, because it impacted me, but I still can ...more
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have taught Rodriguez's essay, "The Third Man" for four semesters at Columbia. Now I am in a class where this book was assigned to me. I mention this because this is a book about the learning process, its prizes and perils.
I can't stop thinking about this book, talking about it. Rodriguez fights for every sentence, every word. You can almost see the 200 revisions that have gone into each phrase, but not quite. This is a beautiful book that accomplishes what I thought to be an impossible task:
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was pretty infuriating to read. Rodriguez contradicts himself over and over again and many of his statements are very hypocritical. He argues that elementary education needs reform, yet he knows nothing of the public school system in which the majority of minorities go through in this country. In my opinion, he is completely out of touch with the subject matter he discusses and therefore it makes it hard for me to see any merit in his stances.
Feb 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rodriguez is often vilified by academic leftists for his conservative views on bilingual education (against it) and affirmative action (against it). Strangest of all, he wants to go back to the Latin mass. He is a gay, Mexican-American Catholic who got his PhD in Renaissance Literature and then dropped out of the academic circuit because he felt Ivy League schools were courting him due to his ethnicity. Now he makes a living off his books, articles, and boyfriend.

This is more a story of his ear
May 31, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book some will love and others will hate.
I first read this book for a college course and found Mr. Rodriguez a bit of a complainer. I just finished re-reading and discovered I greatly enjoyed his writing style and was better able to understand his experience growing up Mexican-American in California. I am still a bit ambivilant It is, at times, a riviting personal narrative. about the interaction between language, culture and assimilation. Mr. Rodriguez poignantly communicates his sadn
Feb 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book over Christmas break and it ruined my holiday! It's the memoirs of a lost man who seeks to justify the distance he feels from his family through his transformation by assimilation into a well to do American author. He sees the loss he has experienced as worth the price. The edition I have is recommended by conservative George Will need I say more to my liberal friends as to why I can not stand this book?

I will say more. It haunts me. I see him as the child I knew who wanted to b
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Unlike Richard Rodriguez I'm not a Mexican-American, but I did grow up in a Spanish-speaking household since my mother is Puerto Rican. Of all the books about and by Hispanics I've read before or since, this is the one I most identified with, that really resonated and spoke to me. I could see much about my family reflected in his--attitudes towards education, skin color, religion... This book indeed was assigned reading in a Sociology class, because it does fit into that discipline. But it's als ...more
Araceli Sanchez
Apr 28, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I decided to pick this book to read I was in my early 20's. The first chapters I felt I could somehow relate to the struggle in trying to assimilate to the mainstream culture. However, as I continue reading I was disappointed when I read further. I got the feeling that he was ashamed of his roots and felt that he was someone who is phony and he was not able to fit in with his family because of the education he had attain at UCLA. I am Mexican American and also attended college. When I was a ...more
Great Book Study
A really pleasant conversation about major social topics. My review here: Hunger of Memory
Crystal Belle
Feb 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
in many ways i felt as if he was ashamed of his mexican heritage. he seems to uphold assimilation and westernization of thought, mind, etc. for that reason, i am not a fan.
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What did you think? Goodreads asks. Indeed this book gave me a lot to think about. Although it was written over 30 years ago, he brought up some points that are still in contention. As in many nonfiction books, Mr. Rodriguez has the tendency to re-state his case repeatedly in various permutations.

The main points that I distilled from it are that Affirmative Action is bad because it tends to give people who aren't really disadvantaged unnecessary advantage. He seems to forget that prior to affir
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Please, excuse me for being frank about this, but some of the reviewers missed the main point of the book.

Rodriguez is not writing about himself trying to leave his cultural heritage behind. He is writing about his struggle to keep his heritage, while being assimilated by another culture: The culture of higher (end) education. His struggle is grounded on his (working class) family being so far away from that when he started his journey, and also unintentionally pushing him away by taking from hi
Apr 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many of the essays in this collection are wonderful. I can relate to his feelings about being a child of immigrant Mexican parents and one of my favorite essays is the one about his complexion. It's when Rodriguez goes beyond the personal that he sometimes loses me. Many times his essays are abstract intellectual reflections that are obtuse enough for me to not care. Still, even some of those have nuggets of thought I find interesting and the most controversial are his feelings on bilingual educ ...more
Aug 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hunger of Memory is about a Mexican American named Richard Rodriguez who goes to Sacremento to go to school. Not knowing much English he still wants to survive this new way of life and become something of himself. His family, his past, and his culture didn't support his dream of becoming a success. This story explains that Richard had to loose something in order to gain something, it explains how important a language is, how little things of a culture is important in a person. When you come into ...more
Elliot Ratzman
“There are things so personal they can only be revealed to strangers.” For years I had condemned this book to the ‘conservative’ wing of American essays, but finally reading it, I’m pleasantly surprised. Decades ago Rodriguez a “comic victim of two cultures” gained some notoriety for opposing bilingual ed and affirmative action when to suggest so was heresy among liberals. Fine, but these essays are intriguing, intelligent and somber, unlike today’s mean-spirited and mindless right. This is a st ...more
Carol Storm
This book was written more than thirty years ago, in the early Eighties. It's the life story of an educated Mexican American who became an Ivy League college professor. All over the country there are people like Richard Rodriguez, teachers, doctors, lawyers, even Supreme Court justices. (Oh, and let's not forget Diana Gabaldon, romance author, visionary and innovator, a double-bacon genius burger whose roots are in Mexico even if her books are all set in Scotland!)

Yet even today, in 2016, when y
May 16, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of memoirs
Richard Rodriguez is stellar at making you internalize the pathos that he pretty much writes in blood on the pages of his book.

While the subject matter was interesting to me (Latino man finding his place in a country that does not accept him as he is), I could not relate much to flavor in which these sentiments were delivered.

Rodriguez's personality is one that had to fight his way through his journey of change. This very bittersweet uphill struggle is believable and not out of order at all.

I j
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book, ok. I mean I liked it because it was well-written but overall, it was just ok. I thought at first he was devling into the transformation of immigrants until I was able to discuss this book with people of his ethnic background. They were angry with him. I was curious to find out why.

It did change my view of the book but not by much. It still was a well written memoir. He still sounds like a douchebag when reflecting back on his family and the cultural stigmas he has had to fac
Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory is about the certain benefits and inevitable costs of getting higher education and the solitary life of a writer. His self-portraiture applies a rather austere and bleak and spartan writing style and voice and evokes an autobiographical speaker's convinced and convicted sense of melancholy, loss, loneliness, and lamentation. As a reader, I was kept away from getting too close for comfort and thus remained at an emotional and intellectual distance. Of course, ...more
Marissa Rodriguez
Mar 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As a Mexican-American experiencing a similar childhood to Richard Rodriguez (my last name also being Rodriguez) I found this book extremely offensive. Despite the controversial aspect, fighting his culture vs. accepting it, the book consisted of constant complaints. This book presents an extremely negative view on Hispanic society. As a whole, I was extremely disappointed with the "renowned" Hunger of Memory.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Eloquent, evocative, powerful, painful memoir of the education and separation of the author from his culture and parents while attaining the "American dream".
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Rodriguez is a man whose education bifurcated his life into a private life and a public life. In the public sphere he was driven to obtain an education that has led him to become one of the most interesting essayists of our time. His description of his inner life, especially his reading life is one of many exceptional aspects of this book. His liberation from the private sphere into the public, where he has become a literary light for others, was made possible in part by this reading lif ...more
Craig Werner
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latino-a, education
It's interesting re-reading this with a knowledge of Rodriguez's later development. When it was published, it was typically misapprehended as a kind of right wing attack on affirmative action. To a very limited extent that's true--Rodriguez rejects much of the way the policy was conceived in the late 60s and early 70s. But he's very clear that he does so because affirmative action, unless very carefully calibrated, may not benefit those who really need it. The bottom line is that class is what m ...more
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has languished on my bookshelf for years, ranking high on the list of books I was ashamed never to have read. On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I finally crossed it off the list. I could have told you that Rodriguez argues against bilingual education and against affirmative action. I could not have predicted how well-written the book is or how much I would enjoy it as a read. Some of Rodriguez’s arguments are rational – does affirmative action do enough to confront the class-based i ...more
Connor Sperling
Hunger of Memory is the personal account of Richard Rodriguez's troubles of being a bilingual student growing up in America. He questions the teaching approach that is used with bilingual students, as he believes that bilingual students should be educated with the public language, as not focusing enough on the public, in his situation English, and his first known language, Spanish, does not prepare him, as well as others, for the public world and does not give the bilingual student a fair chance ...more
Simon Cleveland
Apr 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lucero Nava
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lucero by: AP history teacher
This book has honestly become a sort of diary to me. Every single concept that Rodriguez writes about I can relate too. Many are surprised to see me so "into" a book of such topic. As a Mexican-american teenager, I can confidently say that this book is a true eye opener.
I enjoy seeing the openness with which Rodriguez speaks about his life, his beliefs, and his struggles. The amount of possible meanings for each topic extend over a wide range, I enjoy the juxtaposition of him as a person. He is
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book, and perhaps the most important book I've read in a while. In our society, we seldom differentiate between race and ethnicity, and we are quick to shy away from discussing class. As an educator, we repeatedly see income tied to standardized test results, yet no one wishes to discuss this. Well, not many do... other than Richard Rodriguez, who was against affirmative action but is honest enough to say how it simultaneously benefitted him and didn't go to those who most n ...more
Lauren Piller
In Richard Rodriguez's memoir, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, Rodriguez does a brilliant job of painting a picture in his readers minds of what education meant to Native Americans, being the minority in a Sacramento school district. Throughout the course of the memoir, Rodriguez describes the hurtful behavior caused by his parents and his culture.
I enjoyed this novel and it spoke to me in the way that whenever I didn't feel like going to school, there is a child somewhe
Well-written enough to maybe convince you of his beliefs, but, at its core, just an autobiography about an "exception" that thinks himself the "rule." Tries to speak on issues that affect the Mexican/Latino population in the U.S. at large (bilingual education, affirmative action) while simultaneously distancing himself completely from his identity as Mexican. Uses his personal experience to make broad political statements. Again, well-written, but his experiences should not be taken as political ...more
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Richard Rodríguez is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodríguez (1982). His work has appeared in Harper's, The American Scholar, the Los Ángeles Times Magazine, and The New Republic. Richard's awards include the Frankel Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the International Journalism Award from the World Affairs C ...more
More about Richard Rodríguez...

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“But one does not forget by trying to forget. One only remembers.” 7 likes
“To many persons around him, he appears too much the academic. There may be some things about him that recall his beginnings—his shabby clothes; his persistent poverty; or his dark skin (in those cases when it symbolizes his parents’ disadvantaged condition)—but they only make clear how far he has moved from his past. He has used education to remake himself. They expect—they want—a student less changed by his schooling. If the scholarship boy, from a past so distant from the classroom, could remain in some basic way unchanged, he would be able to prove that it is possible for anyone to become educated without basically changing from the person one was. The scholarship boy does not straddle, cannot reconcile, the two great opposing cultures of his life. His success is unromantic and plain. He sits in the classroom and offers those sitting beside him no calming reassurance about their own lives. He sits in the seminar room—a man with brown skin, the son of working-class Mexican immigrant parents.” 4 likes
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