Brown: The Last Discovery of America
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Brown: The Last Discovery of America

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  318 ratings  ·  47 reviews
In his dazzling new memoir, Richard Rodriguez reflects on the color brown and the meaning of Hispanics to the life of America today. Rodriguez argues that America has been brown since its inception-since the moment the African and the European met within the Indian eye. But more than simply a book about race, Brown is about America in the broadest sense-a look at what our...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published March 25th 2002)
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Mattie Haag
Brown, by Richard Rodriguez, addresses many paradoxes (wanting to belong versus wanting to be an individual, extremes vs. mediocrity, etc.), yet the main main theme that resonated with me was the idea that political correctness, the act of tiptoeing around the issue of race, can be much more racist than the blatant fact. Though we have been in our past offensive, banishing native tribes of our nation to tiny reservations plagued with disease and alcohol and drug abuse, and, of course, committed...more
Robert
Before venturing down the convoluted and intricately flowing river of mind of Mr. Rodriguez, my English teacher gave the class a single word to describe the thin, shadowy memoir on our desks. She told the class to remember the word "Iconoclast", and with an air of certainty wrote its definition on the white board, embracing the terms fully negative connotation in an ironic proclamation of what the book represents. That definition was the first thing I wrote on the subject of this book, and it st...more
David
It's somewhat surprising to me that I actually own all three volumes of Richard Rodriguez's essays/memoirs/rants, because when I think about it the guy gets on my last nerve. He's Latino, born in San Francisco of Mexican parents, but grew up in Sacramento. He's also Catholic and gay. Which apparently allows him to claim the trifecta of identity politics, that rare triple minority status.

To give him credit, Rodriguez gained a certain notoriety as a young academic for his principled refusal to tak...more
Jessica
Richard Rodriguez is a national treasure (he would say, in a parenthetical note like this, that he is a world treasure, or perhaps treasure of the world, a treasured parchment in a brown chest). What I admire most about him is his bravery. Not the braveness of his politics (he's a member of the "it's complicated" party) , but the bravery of his writing, which is written just so, every word a triumph, every sentence a five-course meal. If Richard Rodriguez wants to write a 50 page essay (a 50 pag...more
Mike
It is different. I may not entirely "get it", but his book seems equal parts observation, wonder, and personal revelation or how he has evolved since “Days of Obligation”. A couple of analogies seem to overreach, but most hit the mark. Much is said about the individual such as how “I” relates to “we”. Like him, I was born and raised in California (he in Sacramento and me in a suburb of Los Angeles) and had not traveled very far from home until my early twenties.

His commentary often comes at the...more
Dale
Great. Thought-provoking.

Richard Rodriguez is a San Francisco-based writer who was asked to write a book about being Hispanic in America. I doubt Brown: The Last Discovery of America was the book that the publisher had in mind when they asked. Rodriguez is a true political maverick whose thesis is that America is becoming "Brown" - a mixture of Anglo, Hispanic, Black, Asian and whatever else you want to throw in. America can embrace this future (and probably will) or it can reject it and deny t...more
Mark
Recommended but with the caveat that it's not really a book about 'race' and it's not always an easy read. Rodriguez is a free agent, neither loyal nor beholden to ANY orthodoxy -- racial, religious, sexual, or otherwise. He does tend to wander off on lyrical but sometimes tedious (to me) tangents, which detracted a bit for me from the power of his writing, which is considerable. Rodriguez definitely makes a case to rival Joan Didion as Best Sacramento Essayist (a coveted distinction, let me tel...more
Osvaldo
My pity for Rodriguez continues.

Brown is a meditation on the color of liminality in the black/white dynamic of American self-conception. At times, Rodriguez seems willing to tarry there in the in-between, in the almost-but-not-quite, but then he moves self-consciously away into that zone beyond doubt, seemingly aware of the dangers of certainty, but preferring it cold comfort.

As he does in Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez seems to want to embrace his occasional white-privilege allowed him by his soci...more
Vanessa
I wanted to like this more but honestly this felt a bit half-hearted, or half-baked. Perhaps I held unreasonable expectations, the book jacket did say (warn?) that 'to describe Brown as a book about race is misleading: It is really a book about America in the broadest sense...' after all.

Rodriguez' writing is beautiful, elegant, sharp, poetic. He's brave and has a dark sense of humour. He proposes intriguing and unexpected connections, admirable even if I often found myself disagreeing with him...more
Gabriel Oak
I'm defiantly putting Rodriguez on my "Latino" shelf, even though he prefers the term "Hispanic." I might have given this book one star if it weren't for the last essay, "Peter's Avocado," which I thought was a brilliant attempt on Rodriguez's part to account for the clash between his sexuality and religion. Overall, though, this book is Rodriguez at his most paratactic and self-indulgent. His determination to let literary allusion substitute for a firm grasp of history is maddening.
diana
The writing is beautiful, there is some highly quotable material, and much of his commentary is startling and thought provoking. That being said, at 230 pages, this book is too long. There is not even the semblance of a plot, and only a hint of organization. The cover quotes the Los Angeles Times review that calls it "a meditation on America's family secrets," and I think the term "meditation" is particularly apt. There is no focus, just random, disjointed reflections on things pertaining to his...more
Jennifer
This is for a book club that I want to join at my local library. I saw him speak on the theme of this book about four years ago. In his talk he really focused on "browning" as the romance of interracial relationships. There are many forms of browning discussed in the book (Rodriguez seems to have a love/hate relationship with writing about race), which has beautiful language, though sometimes the metaphors are a little too abstract. I think that's one of the biggest criticisms of him; that he's...more
Angie Schoch
This particular book took me a while to get into, but after page 48 I finished it in one day.
More about Brown as the concept of impurity(not always as race), but embracing of that impurity and its connection with ambiguity and middle grounds, rather than talking about impurity with a negative connotation. Also a discussion of American Identity(I particularly enjoyed his section dealing with authenticity versus theatricality and Puritan roots).

It is more of a meditation than a journey, which is...more
Erika Anderson
Brown by Richard Rodriguez. I really love his other two books, Days of Obligation, and Hunger for Memory, and the preface to this one, the third in the trilogy, is amazing. Unfortunately, after that its a bit obtuse, as if he's not really concerned whether I know what he's talking about or not, or why, which I think is accurate. Interestingly, I believe its a signed copy from a reading I went to of his. Maybe it would be better if he were reading it to me now. I'll look him up. Final note: I'm g...more
LG
Jul 17, 2012 LG rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American (and Americanized) teenagers
Shelves: taught
I was introduced to Rodriguez years ago, when I read an excerpt from “Aria,” his forceful essay on a bilingual childhood. Brown is that voice to the nth power – poetic, polemic … and pretty darn difficult to teach. But he and I have turned out to have so much in common in our relationship with English and America that this memoir continues to strike a chord with me. I still discover new meaning in it every year, so it’s worth my own time to keep returning to it. Happily, one or two of my student...more
Cris
Simply the best book by Richard R. Again, more of a meditation on identity and impurity than any type of biography. This collection of essays looks at the the idea of mestizaje as it pertains not just to race and identity but also of ideas, cultures and religion. Through a variety of literary and cultural references we are invited to the continuously evolving mind of one of the most controversial figures in literature today. He is the post-identity American, really much more interested in larger...more
Valerie
Although I personally don't agree with Rodriguez's politics (really? how can you be a conservative Mexican American who doesn't believe in affirmative action even after benefiting hugely from it??) and don't even love his writing style (too digressive, stream-of-consciousness), his ideas and musings are really interesting and every time I read and teach this book, there is more to plumb.

To talk and teach about race, ethnicity and the weird place that it occupies in America, you need this book.
Lianne
Nov 20, 2008 Lianne added it
A series of essays about being of the brown race.Richard Rodriguez is a journalist, memorist and essayist who writes about growing up Hispanic in Sacramento. He explores the social and political effects of the Hispanic population in America. Displaced by the American conquest of Mexican lands, the immigrant waves of Spanish-speakers are gradually becoming assuming majority status in several states though they are regarded as "minorities" by bureaucracies and government.
Sam
All of Richard Rodriguez's books are gold in my eyes. This book is a meditation on racial identity in the U.S. that provides enough questions and situations that make the reader question their place in the grand (fictional) scheme of race. The question "Do I think brown thoughts" was particularly striking to me, and I found myself wondering, along with the author, what brown thoughts were exactly, and if I indeed thought them. Jury's still out on that one.
Katie
Apr 24, 2008 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. It reads very beautifully; Rodriguez has a real command of the language. Additionally, the book is full of allusion and neat references. Still, underneath that content, the politics of the book are vaguely disturbing, and the book itself is so self-contradictory that I don't know if it's possible to take it seriously at all. Rodriguez wants brown to signify everything--which means it ultimately is no help.
Melissa Ortiz
I had high expectations for this book. The description made it sound captivating. That being said, only one chapter was how I expected the entire book to be. There was little to no organization to the text. The author seemed to want to impress the reader with references that were probably lost on even well read audiences. While very interested in the concept and notion of brown I found this book boring and would not recommend it.
Michael Baradi
Richard has never excluded whine in his three books, which can sometimes get on people's nerves. Get over it, they'd say. But that's just part of his writing, its nature. In many ways, his books owe their tone to it. Brown meditates on in-between-ness, and finds poetry there. I read this again early this year, and will pick it up again, in future.
Jaime Contreras
Mr. Rodriguez is an eloquent writer. His book is a collection of essays that are profound, well-thought and insightful. The only reason I was able to relate to many of the points and references he made was because of my education with the Jesuits. But even I had to look some of the references up. Overall, a very good but heady book.
Molly Jones
Mar 06, 2007 Molly Jones rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of chicano lit
Honestly, I felt like an outsider looking in, as I read this book, which, perhaps, is the point. In this critique, Rodriguez explores what it is to be "brown" and accuses every race, including his own, of their part in placing Chicanos in a disadvantaged or misrepresented position in America. I had a very hard time getting into it.
Nicolas Shump
A great read and a perfect AMS text. This is the first book that Rodriguez wrote that is not a compilation of previously published essays. The opening and closing are beautiful. The final chapter is one of the most honest and moving accounts of the tensions between religion and sexuality that I have ever read.
Allen Price
One of the most erudite books I've ever read. This guy has a vocabulary and he knows how to use it. I got hte point early on that white is merging with black and brown and pale yellow to produce - BROWN. The culture as well as the pigmentation is almost inevitable, the author asserts. Hard to disagree.
Shara
Tough to review. 2 for content, 4 for style? No doubt, Rodriguez makes masterful prose. I've admired several of his anthologized essays. This collection as a whole, however, meanders more than it pronounces. There are revelatory moments, but the author seems reluctant to push his arguments forward.
Jonathan
So far I still hate him, although he does write well. I don't know, I think this is the worst of his I hate being Brown and Gay trilogy, not sure I can finish it, even though I hate not finishing books. he beat me, I couldn't finish this crap.
Jeff
Not a memoir, nor a history, nor a set of lectures, or public orations. Nonetheless, in William Carlos Williams' tradition -- In the American Grain. A set of reflections on the meaning of Hispanicity in America. Absoutely terrific.
Bachelm
I WAS SO EAGER TO READ THIS BOOK. I WAS DISAPPOINTED. FOR SOMEONE WHO CAN SPEAK SO WELL IT IS A SHAME HE COULD NOT COME ACROSS IN THIS BOOK AS THE CAPTIVATING STORY TELLER HE OTHERWISE APPEARS TO BE.
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Richard Rodriguez is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982). His work has appeared in Harper's, The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New Republic. Richard's awards include the Frankel Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the International Journalism Award from the World Affairs C...more
More about Richard Rodriguez...
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography Hunger of Memory Publisher: Bantam

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“Books should confuse. Literature abhors the typical. Literature flows to the particular, the mundane, the greasiness of paper, the taste of warm beer, the smell of onion or quince. Auden has a line: "Ports have names they call the sea." Just so will literature describe life familiarly, regionally, in terms life is accustomed to use -- high or low matters not. Literature cannot by this impulse betray the grandeur of its subject -- there is only one subject: What it feels like to be alive. Nothing is irrelevant. Nothing is typical.” 4 likes
“I think brown marks a reunion of peoples, an end to ancient wanderings. Rival cultures and creeds conspire with Spring to create children of a beauty, perhaps of a harmony, previously unknown. Or long forgotten. ” 3 likes
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