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Hunger Of Memory Essay

2072 words - 9 pages

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodríguez

Hunger of Memory is an autobiography of the writer Richard Rodríguez and his transition from youth to manhood told through a series of recollected stories. The premise of his writing was centered mainly on his struggle to maintain both his Mexican heritage and closeness to his Spanish-speaking family, while at the same time being assimilated into American culture and obtaining an advanced education. Within the book Richard Rodríguez illustrates his contempt for affirmative action and bilingual education, two practices that had directly burdened his life while growing up. One of his main conflicts was grounded in his own ...view middle of the document...

Rodríguez was left with feelings of dejection, almost as though they had completely given up their language and culture, which was the main component that helped nurture the close ties within his family.

Once he began attending daily tutoring sessions as well as immersing himself in books, Rodríguez started developing his vocabulary, syntax, phonology and other components of mastering the English language with greater dexterity. He would drink in the words of the authors, constantly shifting his opinion to that of theirs, while always checking out as many novels from the library as possible. This led to far-ranging consequences, as eventually he began outgrowing his family’s capacity to carry on conversations. Rodríguez felt resentful towards his parents when they could not help him with homework and he grew embarrassed to watch them struggle to speak English in public. His mother would attempt small talk and his father, shy and ashamed of what little English he knew, began to withdraw from conversations altogether. After continually correcting the grammar of his parents and placing more and more trust in the Americanized Catholic church and school system, his family would divisively call him “pocho”, a Spanish word meaning a Chicano who had forgotten one’s native tongue and culture. Eventually, Rodríguez realized a silence had fallen on his family as he belonged more and more closely to the white English society in which he was educated.

Rodríguez was eventually accepted in college by Stanford, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in English. He later attended Berkeley and Columbia for graduate school. Throughout college, he struggled with the idea of his “minority” student label. He related himself to a coconut, being brown on the outside, and white on the inside. Rodríguez had difficulty throughout his childhood with his complexion. He related dark skin to being uneducated and poor, remembering that his mother would always insist he stay out of the sun and away from physical labor. He was very insecure in his youth, ashamed of his skin tone and thinking himself ugly. At one point in a moment of self-hating desperation, Rodríguez took a razorblade and attempted to shave off the “color” on his arm, but thankfully just shaved the hair on his arms in the end. One significant point in his life was when he worked in construction for a summer. This was the first time he allowed his skin to become dark. He was astonished to learn that many of his colleagues had college diplomas. They did not fit into his preconception that all workers were poor because in fact, many of them were middle to upper class. Following that summer, he declared "the curse of physical shame was broken by the sun; I was no longer ashamed of my body." In 1967 African American civil rights leaders brought attention to the mediocre education that black students in high school were receiving and how it was not properly preparing them for...

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