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Discussion Questions for “Barrio Boy” by Ernesto Galarza

Ernesto Galarza’s powerful memoir Barrio Boy is the story of his acculturation into American life. The narrative follows little Ernie from his days as a young boy inthe tiny town of Jalcocotán in Mexico to his days in the bustling barrio of Sacramento, California in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Since its publication in 1971, Barrio Boy has been included in academic courses from the high school to undergraduate level and continues to profoundly affect students to this day. 

Below are some discussion questions about the memoir designed to provoke thought and conversation throughout reading. 

  • How does Galarza use the child perspective to frame the narrative?
  • What details does Galarza choose to focus on throughout the narrative, and how do these details change both as the setting changes and as Ernie changes?
  • How is Galarza’s emotional journey reflected in his physical journey?
  • Why do the italicized Spanish words do for the text, especially when they aren’t given an in-text definition?
  • How does the influence of community and relationships, both familial and otherwise, affect Galarza throughout the narrative?

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