Hunger of Memory
by: Richard Rodriguez
 Purpose of autobiography: to tell about how Rodriguez’s education
moved him from boyhood to manhood.
 Rodriguez’s journey started as a young child in Sacramento, California
in a small house in “a comfortable white neighborhood.”
 Rodriguez's family was not described as “well-to-do,” but his parents
found the money to send their children to Catholic schools. Neither
parent had education past elementary school.
 Rodriguez, could barely speak English when he started elementary
 Finished his academic efforts as a Fulbright scholar in Renaissance
literature with degrees from Stanford University and Columbia
University. Rodriguez’s journey in “Hunger of Memory” explains how
he gave up his Mexican identity in order to access the Western
 The use of two languages marked the difference
between his public life and his private life as a child.
When Rodriguez was a young child, he spoke primarily
Spanish. Spanish was the comfortable language of his
home life.
English was the language he heard spoken by strangers
outside the home.
 When Rodriguez attended a Catholic elementary school, his
teachers were concerned about Rodriguez's poor
 Teachers (nuns) ask parents to speak only English in the
home. This event changes everything, including how
he feels at home with his parents. At first he is
frustrated with speaking only English.
 Social Dominance Theory starts to impact the
Rodriguez family through “De-Mexicanization”
(subtractive schooling) by subtracting students’ culture
and language (in this case his entire families culture is
subtracted.) His teachers also had Caring relations
about school, but not about the individual student.
Hunger of Memory
by: Richard Rodriguez
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“One Saturday morning, I
entered the kitchen where my
parents were talking in
Spanish. I did not realize they
were talking in Spanish
however until, at the moment
they saw me, I heard their
voices change to speak
English.”(Rodriguez, R. Hunger
of Memory. )
“I felt my throat twisted by unsounded grief. I had no place to escape to
with Spanish. My brothers and sisters were speaking English in another
part of the house. I was obliged to hear my mother and father : ‘Speak to
us en ingles.”
Social Dominance Theory In Rodriguez’s Life
 At first, Rodriguez felt that the English language is a public
language of other people, and that he was not allowed to
 At 7 years-old, as he starts to speak English in his home and
school, he starts to believe that he is an American citizen, not
a Mexican immigrant separated and different from los
gringos.(Slang word, means foreigner.)
As Richard’s education advances, the closeness of his family
starts to disappear.
Social Dominance Theory Continued…..
How speaking only English impacts the Rodriguez Family…
 Richard and his siblings stay out later and spend time with the kids at
school and in the neighborhood, instead of at home. His mother grows
more confident speaking English and convinces her husband to buy a
The word gringo loses its previous meaning. Now, it only means an
American, who is not Hispanic. The family communicates less,
because Richard's parents have a hard time understanding the English
that he and his siblings speak more fluently.
Richard's mother tries to make small talk and communicate more with
the children.
His father becomes quiet and shy, often allowing Richard's mother to
speak for them in public places, because of his embarrassment when
speaking the English language.
Hearing families speak Spanish saddens Richard,but he thinks that, in
order to fully embrace the English language and a place in public
society, one has to lose something.
Richard feels that he lost his family closeness for his place as an
English speaker.
Richard's family and relatives start to call him Pocho, a Spanish word
that means an American who forgets their native language, because
he no longer speaks Spanish with confidence.
Summary: Social Dominance Theory in Rodriguez’s Life
 Gave up his own identity as a Mexican in order to access the Western
In an Interview in 1997 with Scott London Rodriguez stated his
journey was not without costs: his American identity was only
achieved after a painful separation from his past, his family, and his
"Americans like to talk about the importance of family values," says
Rodriguez. "But America isn't a country of family values; Mexico is a
country of family values. This is a country of people who leave home.”
Rodriguez feels that he lost something when he and his family became
increasingly Americanized
BUT- he discusses that there were also things gained. One being “a
public identity"
Rodriguez felt he had to make a choice between pursuing a good
education by releasing his native background, or pursuing a closeness
with his family. (Which would mean not becoming “Americanized”)
He does not associate his parents with education (and he feels a guilt
for this feeling.)
Additional Important Parts of “Hunger of Memory”….
 He does not agree with bilingual education proponents who argue
that children not taught in their native languages lose their
"individuality." He also does not believe that bilingualists
understand the necessity and value of assimilation.
 He hints that bilingual education destroys the separation between
the two languages.
 Rodriguez examined how his dark complexion has defined certain
parts of his life. His skin color made him subject to racism, and he
said he felt “ugly inside.” His parents discouraged manual labor
jobs, as they thought it depicted him as a “Mexican.”
 Rodriguez believes social class, and not race or ethnicity, is the key
indicator for oppression and inability to “advance” in society.
Social Dominance ties with Religion
 Richard feels a connection to Western Culture since he was raised a
practicing Catholic.
He quickly realizes the difference between Mexican Catholicism and
English Catholicism, also tied to social class.
Mexican Catholicism has more to do with Christ supplying needs
(suggesting his family may have been poor and unable to afford
English Catholicism shows a dependence on the church for wisdom
and knowledge
Richard’s family accepts the English Catholicism, despite its
Four Language Modalities
used by Richard Rodriguez
 He describes himself as a scholarship
boy, a book worm who spent his time
admiring his teachers, reading books
and correcting his parents' poor English
 After many years, he admits that his
success is due to never forgetting his
life before education, and the change he
experienced after getting an education.
Four Language Modalities used by Rodriguez
1.) Listening to English came first for Richard
 Songs on the radio, overhearing English conversation, in stores…
2.) Reading came second for Richard.
Reading was the main reason for Richard’s achievement, solely because of his love
for reading.
• He used poetry to force remembrance and repetition.
• He often struggled walking home with stacks of books from the library.
• He locked himself in his room and read books all night.
• Described himself as “eager and anxious to learn.”
• He asked his 4th grade teachers for names of important books and refused to read
children books. He was known to continually check out the maximum amount (10
books) from the library. His teachers used him as a role model for other students to
look towards for motivation and good study habits.
 Upon entering high school Richard had read hundreds of books. His habit of reading
made him a confident speaker and writer of English.
3.) Speaking came third --simultaneously alongside with reading
4.)Writing came last--Reading and writing were also hand in hand. He learned one
with the other through his strict Catholic education, where he was required to speak
out loud, memorize, and copy repetitively.
Side note: He expressed concern that he was the type of student who made good grades by simply
memorizing information and never developed his own opinions. He read to get the authors
opinion instead of forming his own.
 How could we as educators value the
assets and address the needs of an ELL
like Rodriguez?
Value his culture by recommending to continue speaking Spanish and
learning to read and write in Spanish simultaneously with learning English
in school. (Different time in History when Rodriguez started his
 Teach the importance of reading for meaning, rather than just reading print
and not understanding.
 Using pictures, socialization with peers, and working with parents at home
to help student progress with the English language.

Hunger of Memory by: Richard Rodriguez