Richard Rodriguez writes about the intersection of his personal life with some of the great vexing issues of America. Rodriguez, the son of Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in Sacramento, California. He was an undergraduate at Stanford University, spent two years in a religious studies program at Columbia, studied English Renaissance literature at the Warburg Institute in London and was a doctoral candidate at the University of California in Berkeley.
In 1982, he published an intellectual autobiography, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. Widely celebrated and criticized, this book is today read in many American high schools and colleges. A memoir of a scholarship boy, Hunger remains controversial for its skepticism regarding bilingual education and affirmative action. In 1992, Rodriguez published Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, a philosophical travel book, concerned with the moral landscape separating Protestant America and Catholic Mexico. Days of Obligation was a runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction in 1993. In 2002, Rodriguez published Brown: The Last Discovery of America, a series of essays concerned with topics as varied as the cleaning of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cubism and Broadway musicals. In Brown, Rodriguez undermines America’s black and white notion of race and proposes the color brown for understanding the future (and past) of the Americas.
As a journalist, Rodriguez worked for more than two decades for the Pacific News Service in San Francisco. He has been a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and the Sunday Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times.
For more than ten years, Rodriguez has appeared as an essayist on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. His televised essays on American life were honored in 1997 with a George Peabody Award.