The two memoirs are similar because the center on boyhood experiences that include poverty and hard work; they are different in locations and family situation, and the authors are different ethnicity. In Barrio Boy, Ernesto Galarza goes from living in a small Mexican town to Sacramento, California. “No Gumption,” from Russell Baker’s memoir Growing Up, tells of a Euro-American’s childhood in the United States during the Great Depression. Overall, Galarza’s book is more serious while Baker’s is often humorous.
Ernesto’s family tries to work their way out of poverty first by moving within Mexico, and then a few at a time go to the United States. Once they arrive in Sacramento, the first live in a Mexican American neighborhood or “barrio,” then move to a predominantly white neighborhood when they afford it. After his mother dies, he lives in a small apartment. Ernesto both studies and works, including at manual labor.
Russell’s family stays in the New York suburbs, but they have trouble making ends meet and many live in a small apartment. His mother encourages him to be entrepreneurial, rather than sit around waiting for his luck to change. This can-do spirit she calls “gumption.” He also both studies and works, in his case selling magazines door-to-door.