Richard Rodriguez Criticism - Essay

Alison Comey (review date 12 March 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Comey, Alison. “View from the Melting Pot.” Christian Science Monitor 74 (12 March 1982): B1, B3.

[In the following review, Comey discusses Hunger of Memory and Rodriguez's personal struggle with cultural assimilation.]

You who read this act of contrition should know that by writing it I seek a kind of forgiveness—not yours. The forgiveness, rather, of those many persons whose absence from higher education permitted me to be classed as a minority student. I wish that they would read this. I doubt that they ever will.

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez is the...

(The entire section is 520 words.)

Tomás Rivera (essay date winter 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rivera, Tomás. “Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory as Humanistic Antithesis.” MELUS 11, no. 4 (winter 1984): 5–13.

[In the following essay, Rivera explores the concept of divisional experiences in Hunger of Memory and the polarization between the Anglo-Saxon and Latino-American cultures.]

[Editor's Note: Shortly before his untimely death, Tomás Rivera sent me the following essay. Except for minor typographical corrections, I have left the work, described by Chancellor Rivera as written from a “loose personal perspective,” as he wrote it. I wish to thank Rolando Hinojosa, Tomás Rivera's literary executor, for...

(The entire section is 4226 words.)

Alfredo Villanueva-Collado (essay date fall–winter 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Villanueva-Collado, Alfredo. “Growing Up Hispanic: Discourse and Ideology in Hunger of Memory and Family Installments.Americas Review 16, nos. 3–4 (fall–winter 1988): 75–90.

[In the following essay, Villanueva-Collado examines the concepts of cultural separation and cultural alienation as explored in Hunger of Memory and Edward Rivera's Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic.]

An analysis of Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic, by the Neorican novelist Edward Rivera, and Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by the Chicano writer Richard Rodriguez, reveals some...

(The entire section is 6820 words.)

W. Lawrence Hogue (essay date spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hogue, W. Lawrence. “An Unresolved Modern Experience: Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory.Americas Review 20, no. 1 (spring 1992): 52–64.

[In the following essay, Hogue discusses Rodriguez's attempts to create a new style of modernist text with Hunger of Memory.]

Two of the most common features of literary modernism are the radical rejection of history and the hostility between high art and mass culture. First, for a modern individual to experience the raw, unmediated present, he is required to reject the frozen structures of understanding inherited from the past. The rejection of history constitutes a revelation of time itself, for there is an...

(The entire section is 5654 words.)

Keith Henderson (review date 17 December 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Henderson, Keith. “California Mix: Modern, Mexican, and Memories.” Christian Science Monitor 85, no. 16 (17 December 1992): 11.

[In the following review of Days of Obligation, Henderson comments on Rodriguez's continuing quest for self-identification.]

Richard Rodriguez's first book, Hunger of Memory, established him as one of the leading Hispanic writers in the United States. But watch how you use that word “Hispanic.” Rodriguez, whose new book is Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, calls the term “a complete political fiction.”

Rodriguez prefers to be known as a Mexican-American, and his...

(The entire section is 649 words.)

Ilan Stavans (review date 26 March 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stavans, Ilan. “The Journey of Richard Rodriguez.” Commonweal CXX, no. 6 (26 March 1993): 20–22.

[In the following review, Stavans offers a negative assessment of Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father.]

It is a complex fate to be an American. James Baldwin liked to quote Henry James on the topic: “America's history, her aspirations, her peculiar triumphs, her even more peculiar defeats, and her position in the world—yesterday and today—are all so profoundly and stubbornly unique that the very word ‘America’ remains a new, almost completely undefined and extremely controversial proper noun. No one in the world seems to know...

(The entire section is 1874 words.)

Richard Rodriguez and Virginia I. Postrel and Nick Gillespie (interview date August–September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rodriguez, Richard, and Virginia I. Postrel and Nick Gillespie. “The New, New World: An Interview with Richard Rodriguez.” Reason 26, no. 4 (August–September 1994): 35–41.

[In the following interview, Rodriguez discusses American culture, cultural assimilation, and his growing pessimism towards multiculturalism.]

Essayist Richard Rodriguez, best known for his 1982 book Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, is usually classified as an Iconoclastic Mexican-American writer with little patience for political correctness. The description is accurate but incomplete. He is, more broadly, a student of America—a subtle and perceptive...

(The entire section is 5047 words.)

Piers Paul Read (review date 4 March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Read, Piers Paul. “Rome versus Los Angeles.” Spectator 274, no. 8695 (4 March 1995): 34–35.

[In the following review, Read offers a positive assessment of Days of Obligation and comments on Rodriguez's exploration of the differences between Anglo-Saxon and Latino-American culture.]

At first sight, these essays [in Days of Obligation] by ‘a gay, Catholic Mexican-American’ journalist promise to be of little interest to Anglo-Europeans. We are a long way from San Francisco where Mr Rodriguez is an editor with the Pacific News Service. He does not write with the candy-coloured razzamatazz of the East Coast's Tom Wolfe. We are prepared to...

(The entire section is 788 words.)

Bill Shuter (essay date spring 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shuter, Bill. “The Confessions of Richard Rodriguez.” Cross Currents 45, no. 1 (spring 1995): 95–105.

[In the following essay, Shuter examines Rodriguez's descriptions of the formation of new cultures in Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation.]

Singular and somber, the voice of Richard Rodriguez has arrested the wandering attention of many viewers of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on the evenings when he is the guest commentator. (Whether it also arrests the attention of today's students I cannot be certain, but essays by Rodriguez appear in seven recent freshmen readers.) And just as firmly as it arrests attention, the voice resists...

(The entire section is 4657 words.)

Norma Alarcón (essay date 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alarcón, Norma. “Tropology of Hunger: The ‘Miseducation’ of Richard Rodriguez.” In The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions, edited by David Palumbo-Liu, pp. 140–52. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Alarcón discusses Rodriguez's exploration of what it means to be an “American” in Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation.]

The historical condition of our times is to have “ethnicity,” albeit reconfigured and remapped in the aftermath of the civil rights movement in the United States. The Marxist mandate to acquire a class consciousness has been too limited to account for all...

(The entire section is 5549 words.)

Laura Fine (essay date spring 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fine, Laura. “Claiming Personas and Rejecting Other-Imposed Identities: Self-Writing as Self-Righting in the Autobiographies of Richard Rodriguez.” Biography 19, no. 2 (spring 1996): 119–36.

[In the following essay, Fine examines the development of Rodriguez's cultural perceptions throughout his two autobiographies.]

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez garnered both fiercely positive and negative reviews at the time of its publication in 1982. Heralded by the right-wing establishment as a model ethnic writer for his stands against bilingual education and affirmative action, Rodriguez found himself excoriated by the academic left,...

(The entire section is 6727 words.)

Antonio C. Márquez (essay date 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Márquez, Antonio C. “Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory and New Perspectives on Ethnic Autobiography.” In Teaching American Ethnic Literatures: Nineteen Essays, edited by John R. Matino and David R. Peck, pp. 237–54. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Márquez debates the problems of classifying Rodriguez's memoirs as “ethnic-autobiographies.”]


Hunger of Memory is comprised of a brief prologue, suggestively titled “Middle-Class Pastoral,” and six chapters: (1) “Aria,” (2) “The Achievement of Desire,” (3) “Credo,” (4)...

(The entire section is 7246 words.)

Kevin R. McNamara (essay date spring 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McNamara, Kevin R. “A Finer Grain: Richard Rodriguez's Days of Obligation.Arizona Quarterly 53, no. 1 (spring 1997): 103–22.

[In the following essay, McNamara discusses the various forms of cultural identity that Rodriguez describes in Days of Obligation, particularly the concept of double consciousness within San Francisco's homosexual community.]

The Mexicans, become Chicanos, act as guides on the visit to El Alamo to laud the heroes of the American nation so valiantly massacred by their own ancestors. … History is full of ruse and cunning. But so are the Mexicans who have crossed the border clandestinely to come and...

(The entire section is 7845 words.)

Paige Schilt (essay date winter 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Schilt, Paige. “Anti-Pastoral and Guilty Vision in Richard Rodriguez's Days of Obligation.Texas Studies in Literature and Language 40, no. 4 (winter 1998): 424–41.

[In the following essay, Schilt studies the pastoral qualities of several of the essays in Days of Obligation.]

The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his. From boyhood I have dwelt on foreign soil, and I know with what grief sometimes the mind takes leave of the narrow hearth of a peasant's hut, and I know, too, how frankly it afterwards disdains marble...

(The entire section is 7370 words.)

Norma Tilden (essay date winter 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tilden, Norma. “Word Made Flesh: Richard Rodriguez's ‘Late Victorians’ as Nativity Story.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 40, no. 4 (winter 1998): 442–59.

[In the following essay, Tilden discusses Rodriguez's views on homosexuality and the role of the Catholic Church as both a censor and a solicitor in his essay “Late Victorians.”]

In his 1982 autobiography Hunger of Memory Richard Rodriguez writes that for him as a child the Catholic Church “excited more sexual wonderment than it repressed”: “I would study pictures of martyrs—white-robed virgins fallen in death and the young, almost smiling, St. Sebastian, transfigured in...

(The entire section is 7719 words.)

Henry Staten (essay date January 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Staten, Henry. “Ethnic Authenticity, Class, and Autobiography: The Case of Hunger of Memory.PMLA 113, no. 1 (January 1998): 103–16.

[In the following essay, Staten explores the conflicts, contrasts, and flaws in Rodriguez's arguments on culture and cultural assimilation in Hunger of Memory.]


When Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez was published in 1982, it immediately became the center of a heated debate that has continued to the present. The book consists of a brief prologue and six loosely intertwined, loosely chronological autobiographical essays. In the prologue, “Middle-Class Pastoral,”...

(The entire section is 9733 words.)

Jesse Alemán (essay date spring 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alemán, Jesse. “Chicano Novelistic Discourse: Dialogizing the Corrido Critical Paradigm.” MELUS 23, no. 1 (spring 1998): 49–64.

[In the following essay, Alemán discusses the corrido tradition in Chicano novels and how Hunger of Memory fits into this tradition.]

As a living, socio-ideological concrete thing, as heteroglot opinion, language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else's.

(Bakhtin 293)

The dialogic nature of language Mikhail Bakhtin describes in “Discourse in the...

(The entire section is 6388 words.)

Petra Fachinger (essay date summer 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fachinger, Petra. “Lost in Nostalgia: The Autobiographies of Eva Hoffman and Richard Rodriguez.” MELUS 26, no. 2 (summer 2001): 111–27.

[In the following essay, Fachinger discusses the differences in autobiographies written by authors from distinct ethnic and racial backgrounds, using the memoirs of Eva Hoffman and Richard Rodriguez as her examples.]

In “The Plural Self: The Politicization of Memory and Form in Three American Ethnic Autobiographies,” in which she compares N. Scott Momaday's The Names, Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera, and Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez...

(The entire section is 5900 words.)