Book Review: “Autobiography of My Hungers”

“Autobiography of My Hungers” by Rigoberto González

c.2013, University of Wisconsin Press

$19.95 / higher in Canada

113 pages

Your life is full.

The days are jammed with work and home; evenings, with hobbies and projects and no time to breathe. Between friends and family, chores, and engagements, weekends are back-to-back packed, too.

Yes, your life is full… and yet, sometimes, you notice a lingering feeling of something missing. In “Autobiography of My Hungers” by Rigoberto González, you’ll see that you’re not the only one with holes in your heart.

When he was a young boy living with his family in Mexico, Rigoberto González remembers that his kitchen job was to separate the piedrita (pebbles) from the beans before his mother boiled them.

He “enjoyed… the small stones,” until they followed him into adulthood.

Back then, he was his parents’ oldest child, but he was close to his Abuelo and Abuela. The entire family was poor, but they “were not going to starve, despite what Abuelo had said the week before.” Despite poverty, his Abuela made sacrifices for him, especially after the family moved El Norte (north, to America). Her gifts were something González didn’t fully understand until many years later.

He did understand loss, however, starting with that of his mother, who returned from California to Mexico to die. González was still a child when she died and her absence, too, was something he didn’t fully grasp until he was a man.

Following his mother’s death and his father’s remarriage and subsequent departure, González continued to live with his grandparents in a tiny apartment, where they all slept in one room.  He went to school but felt out-of-place, with one foot in Mexico and one in his new country.

He was devastated when his family moved back to Mexico, leaving him alone to finish his education. Still, college was where he found a girlfriend, and came to terms with his “hungry gay body.” It was there that he tried to commit suicide, tried to starve himself, felt unloved, and came to confront memories of embarrassment in childhood and the hurt he held from his abusive, alcoholic father.

And New York, post-college, was where he realized that he could fall in love too quickly with a man, but “if the waters got rough, I could always beat him to the exit.”

Looking for a quick little pick-me-up read?

Well… you’d be half right, if you tried this memoir.

Yes, “Autobiography of My Hungers” is skinny and, at under 120 pages (most of them, partially-filled), it’ll be a quick book for most people to finish. Still, it seemed to be the longest book I’ve read this year, because author Rigoberto González writes with a deep, soul-crushing sadness that never lets up.

Yes, it could be argued, I suppose, that González pens with the beauty of a poet. I’ll admit I enjoyed his nuanced observations on the tidbits of life. To find those subtleties, though, is like searching through a garden of despair, which I’m not sure is worth the leftover feeling I got when finished.

No, “Autobiography of My Hungers” is just too full of sorrow.

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