Richard Rodriguez Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

With the publication of his autobiography, Hunger of Memory, in 1982, Richard Rodriguez (rawd-REE-gehz) rose to immediate national attention as a fine, if controversial, essayist. Born Ricardo Rodriguez in San Francisco, California, in 1944, the son of Mexican immigrants, he moved with his family to Sacramento, where they had purchased a small home. Ricardo spoke only Spanish at home with his parents and siblings. In Hunger of Memory he describes his first experience of English-language society, encountered in the Catholic elementary classroom which transformed him from Ricardo to Richard. When his parents began to speak only the “public” language of English at home, at the recommendation of his Irish nun teachers, Richard suffered a loss of intimacy with his family. He later decided that the educational process itself accounted for his separation from his parents, rather than simply “public” (English) versus “private” (Spanish) language.

Rodriguez was raised Catholic and attended Catholic primary and secondary schools. He earned a B.A. from Stanford University in 1967 and an M.S. from Columbia University in 1969. He did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the Warburg Institute in London. He received a Fulbright Fellowship (1972-1973) and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1976-1977). Though he was offered several university teaching positions, he declined the offers because he suspected that he was benefiting from a misplaced affirmative action. That is, he was offered such positions because as a Mexican American he was a member of an underrepresented ethnic group, while he believed that his entire education and preparation had resulted in his complete assimilation into the majority. Rodriguez became an editor at Pacific News Service, where he served for more than two decades, and a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and the Sunday “Opinion” section of the Los Angeles Times. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The American Scholar, Time, Mother Jones, The New Republic, and other publications.

Rodriguez spent six years writing Hunger of Memory, sections of which first appeared in magazines. Hunger of Memory is autobiographical, but rather than presenting a chronological view of Rodriguez’s growth and development,...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory is a collection of essays tracing his alienation from his Mexican heritage. The son of Mexican American immigrants, Rodriguez was not able to speak English when he began school in Sacramento, California. The Catholic nuns who taught him asked that his parents speak English to him at home so that he could hear English spoken all the time. When his parents complied, Rodriguez experienced his first rupture between his original culture and his newly acquired culture. That initial experience compelled him to see the difference between “public” language—English—and “private” language—Spanish. To succeed in a world controlled by those who spoke English, to succeed in the public arena, Rodriguez learned that he had to choose public language over the private language spoken within his home. Hence he opted for alienation from his Mexican heritage and roots, a choice that he viewed with resignation and regret.

His educational journey continued as he proceeded to earn a master’s degree and then to become a Fulbright scholar studying English Renaissance literature in London. At that time, he decided to leave academic life, believing that it provided an advantage to Mexican Americans at the expense of those who did not possess this hyphenated background.

Rodriguez proceeded to become an opponent of affirmative action, and details his opposition to this policy in Hunger of Memory....

(The entire section is 443 words.)


(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Richard Rodriguez Published by Gale Cengage

Richard Rodriguez was born on July 31, 1944, in San Francisco, California, to Mexican immigrants Leopoldo and Victoria Moran Rodriguez, the...

(The entire section is 472 words.)