Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory
The universal "growing pains" that all children experience
in one form or another are easily recognized in Richard
Rodriguez’s autobiographical excerpt from Hunger of Memory.
Rodriguez’s childhood was particularly unique given the fact
that while he was born and raised in the United States, he
was strongly influenced in the ethnic environment of a
Spanish family. Although the reader is introduced to only a
short excerpt from the autobiography, he learns a great deal
about Rodriguez’s family and his relationship to it, his
conflict of speaking English versus Spanish, and the
paradox that became evident as he used English as his
primary language. Furthermore, the reader learns that
Rodriguez’s experiences have contributed to his beliefs that
a bilingual education is harmful.
First of all, Richard Rodriguez came from a family
where his parents had been born and raised in Mexico. After
moving and settling in America, Rodriguez’s parents gave
birth to him and his siblings. Rodriguez refers many times
to "los gringos" , a colloquial, derogatory name charged
with "bitterness and distrust" with which his father
described English speaking Americans. This evidence made it
apparent to the reader that definite animosity existed
between his parents and the society around them.
Resultingly, assimilation into the American culture was not
a very comfortable process for his parents. Despite this,
the authors parents created a comfortable haven for him and
his siblings in their adopted country. The author shares
with the reader how close and tightly-knit his family was.
He describes in numerous instances the "special feeling of
closeness" that he shared with his family. He also mentions
the fact that he used to feel a "desperate, urgent, intense"
feeling of wanting to be home. Spending time at home,
speaking his "personal" language of Spanish, and being with
his family gave Rodriguez comfort and a feeling of safety
that was not felt outside of his home.
Rodriguez was forced to leave that comfort and safety
every morning though once he began attending school. The
author describes hearing the cold, harsh sounds of the
English language and wishing that his teachers would welcome
him in Spanish, instead. The author explains that, as a
child, he regarded Spanish as his own personal language. In
his autobiography, at the young age of seven, he did not see
himself as an American citizen like the other children in
his class, and this discouraged him from readily learning
Ultimately, Rodriguez did learn to speak the public
language. Some of the teachers at Rodriguez’s school were
concerned with his and his siblings unresponsiveness in
class and their unwillingness to speak English. They spoke