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Brown: The Last Discovery of America Paperback – March 25, 2003


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Brown: The Last Discovery of America + Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father + Hunger of Memory : The Education of Richard Rodriguez
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142000795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142000793
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I write about race in hope of undermining the notion of race in America," notes Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory) in this provocative and challenging meditation on identity, racial and otherwise, in American culture. Relishing the contradictions of his own life as a "queer Catholic Indian Spaniard at home in a temperate Chinese city in a fading blond state in a post-Protestant nation," Rodriguez uses the color "brown" as a metaphor for in-between states of being ("brown bleeds through the straight line unstaunchable the line separating black from white") and as a symbol of the nonlinear and the unexpected: "all paradox is brown." Beautifully written in a literary style accessible and lyrical, this book draws upon a far-reaching range of cultural figures and artifacts e.g., Milton, James Baldwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Lauren advertisements, Leontyne Price in the opera Cleopatra, Edith Sitwell, Showboat, Carlos Fuentes, Francis Parkman's Oregon Trail to make his case that our historical and contemporary conceptualization of race is rudimentary and psychologically and culturally damaging. He isn't afraid to challenge recent left orthodoxy, finding, for example, that he "trusted white literature, because I was able to attribute universality to white literature, because it did not seem to be written for me." This book is written for anyone looking for a way out of limiting self-conceptions.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For Rodriguez, the "browning" of America reveals a mixing of the races; hence, the "erotic" of the title. This completes a trilogy on U.S. public life begun with Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It is a provocative and perplexing tune Mr. Rodriguez carries.
Moises Hernandez
It also makes Rodriguez's actual point very difficult to discern- so much so that one is given to wonder at times if Rodriguez himself has lost sight of it.
KBJ
I recommend that you read this book and let Richard Rodriguez get into your head.
Bruce Crocker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Moises Hernandez on April 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
5 STARS. Mr. Rodriguez is an excellent social essayist of America's many converging streams.
I have just finished reading Richard Rodriguez's new book "Brown: The Last Discovery of America" and I am contemplating how long I should wait before beginning it again. Here is a writer worth many readings. His subject and approach invite numerous visits, viewings from varied moods and perspectives.
In this (his third book) Mr. Rodrigez's takes as his theme the notion of brown as intermingled, mixed, impure and argues that it is the inevitable conclusion of America. Along the way he gives us his reading (a brown reading?) of Richard Nixon, Alexis de Tocqueville, Ben Franklin, the Latin American migration, the persistance of Puritanism, sexual politics, cubism, Melcolm X, Catholism, public space, and the American insistance on authenticy against its impulse for the theatrical. Many of these are themes Mr. Rodriguez has covered before. Here he revisits some familiar themes through the lense of brownness, turning them over by a different light, holding them up to a different horizon. He is a writer of a fugue like repetition, striking humor in one note and discomfort in the next, leaving the reader to follow the argument off the page. He is a writer who does not condescend to his readers with trite resolutions or comforting reassurances. His style is personal and political, contemplative and engaging. He is an excellent stylist of a kind rarely seen on bookshelves today.
This is not an easy read. Don't buy this book if you're looking for a quick and fun read. It is a provocative and perplexing tune Mr. Rodriguez carries. He points in directions that he leaves uncharted, exposes personal wounds that he leaves unmended. He invites us into an uncomfortable space of hanging questions.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on June 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Richard Rodriguez's Brown is a stream of consciousness journey through brown as metaphor for the very mixed world we are headed towards. As a man of mixed culture [gay, Catholic, American, Mexican descent, indian, writer, etc.], Rodriguez is the perfect person to take us on this brown journey. I know of Rodriguez's writings from the Sunday Los Angeles Times and I read this book on the strength of the newspaper pieces. It was a thought provoking read that had my head swirling and I only got bogged down in chapter 2. Be ready to hit the dictionary and the encyclopedia. I live in a brown neighborhood in Whittier, California, I teach at a brown high school in La Habra, California, and even though my students would label me Anglo [I have reddish hair and spotted skin if anyone cares], given my very eclectic upbringing and interesting ancestry, I hope that I fit in well to the brown world around me. I recommend that you read this book and let Richard Rodriguez get into your head.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Tippetts on June 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Strking a white guy from Montana living in the purgatory of the outlands of the West, this book understates its own goals - as it should. And overfulfills its promise. It is shewd, literate, thoughful, and filled with bright insights into our common condition. Surprise and delight somwhere on every page. A dead-on counter to the prevailing post-civil rights race consiousness that prevails in the United States. Marred only by occasional obscurity of reference, and ponderous paragraph.
In another 500 years, we will all be medium brown, and will have to find something else to fight about.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By dave-o on November 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Anyone that things that race relations as an issue has fallen by the wayside or is somehow is a moot point will be enlightened by the eloquent, poetic point of view brought forth by Richard Rodriguez' latest book. Rodriguez does not forgo the often oversimplistic Black-White issue but suggests that they were always a hybrid issue of 'Brown'. America as a dynamic hotbed of ever-Westward expansion; and once the West was won of expansion of a more global nature. Selling the 'American Dream' in an effort to conquer and re-conquer in a never-ending quest for collective conciousness. Rodriguez suggests that the issue of race is not a physical one, but rather how one responds to this conciousness brought about by assimilation.
His anecdotes brings things down to a very personal level without which 'Brown' would come across as speculative and academic. Rodriguez paces things so well and his words are so graceful that one is moved not only by his observations and experiences, but also their self-awareness in a historical context.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on April 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Richard Rodrigues provides an excellent case on the creation of a somewhat mythical category of race that has come into common usage. While race is generally reserved for the major blood lines associated with the continents of the world, here in the United States we have made a complete mish-mash of our categorizations of race and ethnicity. Anyone who has recently filled out a form has likely been surveyed on the Race. We are provided with a check list. It appears to work it's way out of a very "white" (or more properly Caucasian" world-view.

While we represent ourselves to be a melting pot and were founded on the principles of equality and freedom, we memers of the U.S. society too often responsible for efforts to continue to divide and categorize.

Richard Rodriguez offers a clear argument on the fictive notions of "brown" and "latino" and uses his own personal life examples to illustrate his case.

I have found Rodriguez writing to be much more engaging in his past two works. While he has always had a tendency to try to sound overly erudite and this has been an onstacle to enjoying his intelligent observations and beliefs about life, I found the writing in Brown to be too often strained with the "intellectualizations" that we often associate with tedious academic texts. I encourage Richard Rodriguez to allow his writing to stand on its own without the artifice of the scholarly tone. More than in his previous works, I found this to be a major distraction to his writing. Mr. Rodriguez is a brilliant man who is well-educated and articulate. He is also a man of passion and controversy. His best writing shines through the personal stories he tells.

A very important contribution to the ongoing debates we continue to wage on cultures, race and ethnicity. Highly recommended.

James J. Maloney
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA
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