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by Rigoberto González

Pub Date: May 6th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-299-29250-8
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Sweet and sad but generally tender vignettes about a poet/professor’s coming-of-age as a gay Mexican immigrant.

González (English/Rutgers-Newark; Mariposa Gown, 2012, etc.) revisits some of the same territory as his American Book Award–winning Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (2006), though this is not a flowing narrative but more like a scrapbook of short pieces, both prose and poetry, few of them longer than a page. As the title suggests, “hunger” provides the thematic thread, not only for food (his family was poor) and later for sex, but also for identity, connection and acceptance. “I was afraid of my hungry gay body,” he writes, though he didn’t realize his sexual orientation until his experiences with an early girlfriend made it obvious to her and to him. His father had mocked him because he was fat, gentle and nonathletic. A Christmas photo spurs memories of his impoverished upbringing that remind him of many others: “At the time of the photograph, I didn’t notice the tree going hungry in the back, its plastic branches spaced apart like bones on a ribcage. The tinsel drooping like strings of saliva. An anemic rosary of Christmas lights. My brother and I knelt in front of the tree, our striped shirts compensating for the dearth of gifts beneath it.” Later, he writes with writerly self-importance of his life as an author: “ ‘What do you write about?’ he asked, and I answered, quite simplistically, ‘Life,’ offering the man I was going to sleep with that night a bouquet of yellow flowers instead of thorns had I admitted, more truthfully, ‘Death’ or ‘Violence’ or ‘Pain,’ as in the horrors that writers will inflict on people who ask for them.”

The literary sensibility speaks more broadly to the human condition, as the author relates the particularities of his own experience through shards of memory.