Hunger of Memory Questions and Answers
by Richard Rodriguez

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What are the dynamics of language and family from the book Hunger of Memory?

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The initial chapters of Richard Rodriguez's memoire, The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, focus heavily on the issues of identity, language, and family. Rodriguez explores the tension that arose in his family, and with his own identity, as he and his siblings began speaking English instead of Spanish at home.

At the start of his memoires, Rodriguez describes the situation where he and his siblings spoke English at school and Spanish at home. At that time, the use of Spanish in his home was a refuge for the young Rodriguez. He felt that it gave his family a secret that they could share against the English speaking world at large. In this way, his notions of language and family were inextricably linked at an early age.

When the nuns from the school the sibling attended came to his home and told his parents that Rodriguez and his siblings were not learning English well enough and that they needed to speak it at home, his parents compliance changed the dynamic of their family, and Rodriguez's role within it. Rodriguez's formerly gregarious parents became uncertain when speaking with their children. His father even began to withdraw from family activities that required him to speak English.

Soon, Rodriguez realized that these traits in his parents carried over to when they spoke English with anyone. In this way, the introduction of English into the family dynamic led the young Rodriguez to reevaluate his family and his place in it.

In the remainder of the book, the tension between language and family, and Rodriguez's identity within his family, play out through the course of his education.  

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