James Baldwin’s Visions Of America and Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory
Many immigrant and minority narratives concentrate their efforts on the positive side of the American dream. These particular stories narrate a person's struggle and rise through the ranks of the Am6rican hierarchy focusing on the opportunities that seem to abound in this country. While these stories are well and good. they do seem to soft peddle the flip side of this country's attitude toward the immigrant and minority. America is a land of milk and honey and opportunity, but unfortunately most new officiates or unwilling participants in the American culture face an American nightmare that leaves its effects on the individuals, families and cultures for generations to come. America has its own deeply seated prejudices and stereotypes of people from outside its walI5 and these prejudices force some immigrants and minorities either to abandon former cultural ties in order to assimilate or to strap on the baldric of equality that changes their lives forever.
Two authors, in particular, will help explore this idea that an immigrant or minority experiencing the trauma of bigotry must in some way attempt to reconcile their own cultural heritage with the demands of a new society that objects to their very cultural difference. James Baldwin and Richard Rodriguez experienced this type of immigrant and minority angst regarding their own ties to their cultural and racial backgrounds. Baldwin struggled with the desire to be a writer, not just a black writer, amidst the chaos and protests of the 1960's political movement and Richard Rodriguez battled between the pull of assimilation and the success it promised and his own feelings of familial betrayal.
There seem to be two commonalties between these two authors: both are well educated and in some way have had to engage politics in order to re-infiltrate their cultural heritage. The purpose of this paper will be to explore the role of education and politics, in these authors' lives, as tools used to create paths of advancement and as the bridge that spans the abyss that now lies between themselves and their respective cultures.
James Baldwin grew up in the slums of Harlem within a family dynamic that was less than ideal) Struggling to reconcile his adolescent feelings of inferiority, placed on him by his stepfather, Baldwin also dealt with the bigotry and hatred that existed between white and black Americans. Trudier Harris writes of Baldwin's adolescence by saying, "He had to find a way of reconciling bitter memories and hatred with the need to move forward into a healthy and hate-free future" (3). Baldwin managed to find solace, in part, within the realm of creative writing, and his excellent abilities helped him to gain entrance into the prestigious DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. David Leeming, in his biography of James Baldwin, explains that DeWitt Clinton had been the previous learning center of...