Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

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Book and Author

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
Hunger Of Memory is the story of a Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum.

Richard Rodriquez

Rodriguez was born in California, his parents were first generation immigrants from Mexico.  His family only spoke Spanish at home and he did not learn English until he went to school at age six.  Aside from writing he has also worked as a newspaper deliverer, gardener, teacher, journalist, educational consult, and visual essayist on the PBS NewsHour television show.
The US Embassy Madrid posted the following interview with Richard Rodriguez, in which he discusses many of the same themes he talks about in The Hunger of Memory, including heritage and personal identity, immigration, and language.

Quote from the book

This is what matters to me: the story of the scholarship boy who returns home one summer from college to discover bewildering silence, facing his parents. This is my story

Discuss

Topics this book will bring up for discussion include:

  • The conflict Rodriguez experienced between his public and private identities, and how common this is in children.
  • How people’s stereotypes about skin color affected Rodriguez, and how they affect children today.
  • Rodriguez shared his opinions on bilingual education and affirmative action–do the group members agree or disagree with him.

Here are more discussion questions from Sonoma State University.

Enhance

Rodriguez asks his teachers to give him the names of “important books”.   Have the group members share what books they would have suggested to him.

The book does not mention food or drink much and if you are planning a menu for your book group it may be a challenge.  Mexican or American?  This also seem’s to be the author’s central dilemma–so perhaps your group could compromise and have some of both.
The one food that is mentioned in a significant way is the meat loaf Rodriguez’s mother serves to the priest who visits their home–a “gringo meal” for the first English speaking visitor to their house. ).  Meatloaf, with it’s blend of meat and other ingredients, may be a good metaphor for the author’s experiences, perhaps even be a Mexican Meatloaf–a blend of two cultures represented in a single dish.

Interact

Have you or your group read The Hunger of Memory?  Would you suggest it to other book groups?  Let them know by commenting on this post.