"The best American essayist."
--Village VoiceRichard Rodriguez works as an editor at the Pacific News Service in San Francisco and is a contributing editor for Harper's magazine and the Sunday "Opinion" section of the Los Angeles Times. He appears regularly as an essayist on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.
An explorer of cultural identity, Rodriguez builds on his acclaimed memoir Hunger of Memory with 10 luminous, loosely linked essays on the tensions and cross-pollinations of race, religion and geography in Californians of Mexican descent. For Rodriguez, a middle-age Californian of Mexican heritage and of self-described Indian mien, Mexico City's miscegenation makes it the capital of modernity. America's immigrant culture implies not motherhood but adoption, and the growth of evangelical Protestantism among California's Hispanic population suggests a longing for some lost Catholic village. No apostle of political correctness, Rodriguez muses on his state's heritage and concludes, We are all bandits, for the U.S. stole California from Mexico, which stole the land from Spain, which stole it from the Indians. Rodriguez's autobiographical style sometimes reveals too little, as in an essay on gay life in San Francisco, but his insights, irony and descriptions (Tijuana is Disney Calcutta) make the writing richly evocative. However, the book would have gained power had Rodriguez tried harder to thread the essays into a sustained narrative. (Nov.)