HUNGER OF MEMORY: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez

HUNGER OF MEMORY: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

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An Uncle Tom to the Ethnic Left, a betrayer of his Mexican-American family, Rodriguez is a rarity: a ""minority student"" who opposed affirmative action and bilingual education programs, a Fulbright fellow who turned down a Yale appointment in Renaissance literature when other Ph.D.'s were turning to taxi-driving. In six introspective chapters--essays on aspects of his life--he describes his assumption of a public identity (""the great lesson of school"") and the cultural alienation from his family he has suffered, first from the school's request to use English at home, then from his academic life away from home. Rodriguez confronts the obvious issues (Catholicism, complexion) but he finds greater clues to the young boy he was in Hoggart's description of ""the scholarship boy"" in The Uses of Literacy: preferring the company of books, reading without a point of view, spouting borrowed ideas. Ultimately, though, Rodriguez discovers his own helpful truth, that the education which separated him from his parents also provided ""ways of speaking and caring about that fact."" These first sections read smoothly. The chapter detailing his professional disenchantment follows his experiences clearly enough--gaining celebrity from his minority status (which he disputes) and from publishing opposition to affirmative action--but his decision to quit academia for a writing career, just as the teaching offers come pouring in, still surprises and baffles. Rodriguez concludes with a moving chapter which reveals his parents' puzzlement over that decision, their pained response to his writing about them, and his need to continue to do so (""I stand on the edge of a long silence""). Honest above all, Rodriguez presents the prominent features of his own education with fresh and vivid insights.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1982
ISBN: 0553382519
Publisher: Godine