Hunger of Memory

(Nonfiction; Random House, 1982)

In an interview with Narrative, Richard Rodriguez speaks of “the biology of the tongue,” referring to the power of language to identify and locate the individual. Hunger of Memory, his first book, is an autobiography that details Rodriguez’s experience with language, a defining element of his childhood, as it is for all immigrant children who straddle two cultures. Growing up the son of Mexican immigrants in Central California, Rodriguez spoke Spanish at home and English at school. One language was intimacy, family, privacy; the other was the public persona he would adopt. Rodriguez vividly describes the fascinating surfaces revealed by the opacity of a language one does not speak and the transparency that comes with fluency.

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