Richard Rodriquez: The Hunger Of Memory

2888 words - 12 pages

Richard Rodriquez: The Hunger of MemoryIn studying the social aspects of assimilation of Latin American culture into the United States, Richard Rodriquez' autobiographical novel, The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriquez deals with challenges he faced learning not only a new language and culture, but striving to maintain a cohesive relationship with his family. His parents and siblings also had to come to terms with their new hybridized identities, yet remain connected to family members who still residing[resided] in Mexico. Rodriquez has written a personal narrative about his struggle to find both inner harmony and social assimilation into a new culture as a Mexican born in America. The challenges of discrimination and dealing with a dominant view that the English language must be mastered in order to become an academic and socially acceptable success, was of paramount importance to Rodriquez' parents.Rodriquez was born in San Francisco [,] and his story is unusual because his ultimate success at meeting these challenges was juxtaposed with his failure to communicate with his Spanish-speaking friends and relatives. His story is about becoming ultimately comfortable with his duality,[and] determining and developing an identity."I grew up victim to a disabling confusion, as I grew fluent in English, I no longer could speak Spanish with confidence...Each time I'd hear myself addressed in Spanish, I would be unable to respond with any success. I'd know the words I wanted to say, but couldn't manage to say them. I would try to speak, but everything I said seemed to me horribly Anglicized. My mouth would not form the words right. My jaw would tremble. After a phrase or two, I'd cough up a warm, silvery sound. And stop." (Rodriquez 229-230)Rodriquez learned English at an early age, encouraged by Mexican speaking parents to become a verbally adept gringo. He was the only Mexican in a class of white children, thus his school hours were spent immersed in the English language. Paradoxically, his success in assimilating into American academia became a problem; maintaining his original identity and his inability to communicate with his Mexican relatives, who did not speak English, yet expected Rodriquez to maintain fluency in both languages. What he discovered was by learning the English language, with all its quirks and idiomatic phrases; he lost the ability to understand the colloquialisms and depth of his own tongue.Challenges within the ESL structure.Rodriquez spoke English from a very early age. His parents bought a house in Sacramento "many blocks from the Mexican side of town" (Lauter), giving the impression that they wanted their children to assimilate into American culture as quickly as possible. They also encouraged him to speak English at home. " Ahora, speak to us en ingles" (London). Rodriquez maintains that it was his parents' influence and, because he was sent to a strict Catholic school during the 1950's, whose nuns encouraged...

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