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Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  278 ratings  ·  56 reviews
An award-winning writer delivers a major reckoning with religion, place, and sexuality in the aftermath of 9/11

Hailed in The Washington Post as "one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in America," Richard Rodriguez now considers religious violence worldwide, growing public atheism in the West, and his own mortality.

Rodriguez’s stylish new memoir—the firs
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 3rd 2013 by Viking
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Hannah Notess
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writers-of-color
After reading this book, I spent like two hours looking at Mecca and Jerusalem on Google maps.

I let Richard Rodriguez get away with pretty much anything because he's such a phenomenal writer. You want to cram Judaism, Islam, and Christianity into one little essay? Sure. You want to stick in random paragraphs about your atheist brother's angry blog comments? Sure.

The essays I loved were "Ojala," "Disappointment," "Darling" and "The Three Ecologies of the Desert" in which he doesn't talk about ec
Hank Stuever
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Darling" is one of the two or three best books I've read in 2013, though, at first, I don't think I was in the mood for it; it sat a while on the nightstand. I've loved some of Richard Rodriguez's essays as much as one can, including "Late Victorians," which I read in an issue of Harper's in 1990 and still remember being blown away by the precision and elegance of his words and thinking. There was another essay, years later, about the whole concept of "the West" that I thought was very good. "D ...more
Throughout most of the book I was thinking, "Not as good as Hunger of Memory, which is hardly a criticism, considering how much I love that book." But then I got to the last two chapters and I take it back. They're even better. ...more
Craig Werner
A bit of a disappointment from a writer I value very much. Despite the title, Darling is more a collection of essays than a spiritual autobiography. As I read the first chapter--a probing meditation on the relationship between the three Abrahamic religions and the desert in which they took form--I was anticipating an extended engagement with issues of spirituality, emptiness, the evolution of religious institutions. Unfortunately, Rodriguez doesn't place those issues anywhere near the center of ...more
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites
This was my first foray into the genre of essays and what I like to think of as collections of thought bubbles. But not the kinds of thought bubbles that I ever come up with - no, the thought bubbles above Richard Rodriguez's head would never fit in a two dimensional space. Unaccustomed to this kind of writing as I am, I found myself struggling to find the tie-in themes in a few sections, but overall, the book was a delight. I often found myself setting it down to gaze at the nearest wall or win ...more
Corinne  Blackmer
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: contemporary
I did not think much of this disordered and rambling book, and I believe that those who did have not read authors of the best quality lately. It would be a compliment to call this book a salmagundi; more accurate to call it a case of literary hoarding and deceptive advertising. It bills itself as a "spiritual autobiography," and while there are observations that comport with that category, there are also contemplations about an aged gay man dying of AIDS in Las Vegas, Lance Armstrong's love life ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Mexican-American, Catholic, gay - not content with three strikes, add intellectual. A "public intellectual" at that. I'd never heard that phrase before, and wondered who else might hold that title. Maybe Susan Sontag.

Here's the good news: Richard Rodriguez seems to wear his identities lightly, and the first three are the prisms through which he shines his amazing intellect. This is really a book of essays that wind their way around the common theme of identity. The writing is beautifully lucid,
Sep 10, 2014 rated it liked it
A book designedly formless and unfocused, but not without intelligence, and Rodriguez’s voice is winning. It’s billed as a spiritual “autobiography” but I’m not sure that’s the right word. It’s more a collection of thematically related essays. The first (“Ojala”) and the last (“The Three Ecologies of the Holy Desert”) are the best. In fact, the latter is a bit sublime.
Jul 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the book too rambly for my tastes even though many of the anecdotes were interesting. But there seemed to be no flow, and that threw me off. I was constantly asking, "What does this have to do with desert religions and specifically their rejection of LGBT people?" I give it 3 stars because the book wasn't boring, but I can't justify any higher. ...more
In a moment of hurry, I pulled this book from the public library shelf and headed home with it.

I was stunned by the beautiful short stories-- poetry really. Sometimes his writing has a stream of consciousness feeling, but then you come upon such a gorgeously crafted paragraph about the spirituality of trees, or their legacy, in an important university library that you really want to go back and read the entire book again. Now. The description of the old wood floor of the library as "plane of hon
Russell J. Sanders
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want to think I am a better person for having read Richard Rodriguez’s Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography. I was drawn to the book when I saw the word “spiritual,” and seeing that Rodriguez is a gay Catholic only peaked my interest. And thus I began my journey through his book. Rodriguez is a remarkable writer. The book is a collection of essays, many of them about religion specifically, and all of them about spirituality. His brilliance is what makes this such a satisfying read. He peppers hi ...more
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic, memoir
I liked it more than I didn't, and for me, I think part of it is to understand the irony of the title -- take 'a spiritual autobiography' as a breathy metaphor, as /autobiography in the sense of the fleeting cataclysmic touches of this & that, here & there, not a concertina of experiences/ and it's closer to the book than if you embrace it literally, if you go in expecting points on a thru-line of a man's spiritual growth.

It still works both ways.

Rodriguez knows well how to turn a phrase, and ho
Pat Mills
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Brilliant in parts. Clear thinking social commentary. Skimmed quickly through a few parts as I just did not have the background knowledge to follow the point, I think. The pain of betrayal, the emotional discomfort of hospital visiting, newspapers as valuable community contributors...those things I get. His brilliance as a writer and speaker, for me, seems to lie in his ability to pull many things together and look at it sideways from a point of view not yet considered. The historical elements a ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
The meandering essays varied in their degree of interest to me. It was the style, however, that I found trying at times. In “The True Cross,” which was largely about his deathbed vigil for someone dear and dear to him, the italicized interjections of others presented difficulties— I found myself counting back, trying to figure out who the speaker was, only to decide it was not one of the several people present, but someone in memory. I found Rodriguez’s more direct narratives, with only his voic ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite the title, this really isn’t a spiritual biography but a series of essays. Most of these essays touch on the author’s faith, sometimes it’s the central focus but most times it’s just in relation to other subjects. I thought his essay on watching a friend die in a hospice was particularly powerful. And his essay on the “New Atheists” who have become so publicly prominent in the wake of 9/11 was spot on. The author is a progressive gay man who remains catholic despite all the challenges th ...more
Oct 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
I read this for the faculty Catholic Intellectual Traditions book club. It sounded interesting - a Latinx, queer, catholic guy grapples with the church, his family, etc. However, it was SO metaphorical and abstract. I did not like it at all.
Chuck Jones
Melissa Pawless
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
It just seemed like a bunch of rambling without any solid form. It’s very descriptive but some parts just lost me. The author just relentlessly rambles with no sense of purpose it seems like.
Kristin Saunders
I don't remember. Trying to update my account. ...more
Feb 24, 2021 added it
really didn't enjoy this one, but the person giving the presentation in class was so excited about it...and her enthusiasm didn't make me any happier with the book. ...more
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Richard Rodriquez first entered my consciousness as a PBS Newshour California-based correspondent who commented on issues such as minorities, immigration, and the environment . This is the only one of his five published books that I've read.

In his foreword he notes that all of the chapters, some of which have appeared in periodicals, were written after September 11, 2001, "years of religious extremism throughout the world, years of rising public atheism, years of digital distraction. I write a
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
nonfiction - these are supposed to be autobiographical essays, but they are more like the author's tangentially connected thoughts splashed across the page in an artful manner. I didn't get a whole lot of out these (maybe if I knew more about Catholicism or the other topics he touches on?) but if you're not looking for cohesiveness, Rodriguez does have a great writing style, and as a gay Catholic American with Hispanic heritage (frequently scrutinized at airports for his darker "Arabic" complexi ...more
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Richard Rodriquez writes about spirituality in the context of social commentary. In his memoir Darling, Rodriquez addresses issues important today, like the treatment of women and homosexuality. These are tricky subjects, subjects that make outsiders—and insiders—wary of spirituality. Thus far they have been treated without tact in much of religious nonfiction. That’s why Rodriquez’s creative nonfiction is so important. He grounds his opinions in his personal experience and fresh honesty; he is ...more
Fr. River
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
December 9, Second Sunday in Advent Luke 3:4-6

DARLING: A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Richard Rodriguez is a book that delivers a major reckoning with religion, place, and sexuality in the after math of 911. He calls us like John the Baptist to think our lives over again--to relook at our lives in the context of our look at success, greed, and spirituality. Nineteen years ago i made the first step in thinking my life over again as I moved to San Francisco. It is not easy--not knowing where my mone
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In reading DARLING: A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY, an interesting sort of stream of consciousness group of essays, by Richard Rodriguez, we (the book and I) are considering the growth of the concept of *one* god in Middle Eastern deserts at one point. He reports a friend's comments about deserts. I can so identify. I recognize the feelings expressed related to my own experience of deserts through the years.

..."The first thing about deserts, he says, is sand. Not sand as a metaphor, but sand as an i
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Long ago I read Rodriguez' Hunger for Memory so when I saw that he would be speaking at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, DC, I hurried to read his latest book. 'Darling' stirred my imagination. I would have to copy this entire book record all the comments and observations that captured my attention. Most memorable perhaps was the question, Do desert religions [Christianity, Islam, Judaism} make warriors? I have not stopped thinking of this question months later. Another favorite qu ...more
Apr 25, 2014 added it
I was first introduced to Richard Rodriguez when he used to present video columns on the PBS News Hour. I loved his heartfelt and sometimes elegiac style that probed cultural and racial questions. I have read all of his previous work and was drawn to this new autobiography. Some of these essays include a probing examination of the city of Jerusalem with its many contradictions as well as a second essay wherein he looks at other deserts such as secular Las Vegas and interior deserts such as the o ...more
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
Darling, by Richard Rodriguez, reads as a collection of essays rather than the assumed autobiographical format. His essays, in which he digresses from one idea to another, are all a conglomeration of the philosophical and quotidian thoughts that have guided his understanding of spirituality as a gay, Roman Catholic man. I feel like I don’t quite know what I read, but I know that it was beautiful and nuanced. In the aftermath of Septhember 11, 2001, Rodriguez writes of the desert religions, he wr ...more
David Hochman
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Richard Rodriguez is a brilliant essayist of true elegance. His style is not straightforward, but neither is it pretentious. For years, his spoken essays provided the only non-banal content to the PBS News Hour. He’s retired from that role now and focused on the written word. Darling is a loosely connected set of essays, all broad explorations of what he's learned about religion and spirituality in the course of his career as a writer and his time on Earth as a human being. He's the kind of writ ...more
Stuart Woolf
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Incidentally, a very high percentage of my favorite writers have spent part of their life in Sacramento. Richard Rodriguez was born and raised there, and his essays have occupied much of my time in recent days.

It helps that Rodriguez writes about subjects that already interest me: California, Roman Catholicism, Mexico, the "browning" of Western Europe and the United States, and LGBT issues. His writing style does bounce around a bit, but I enjoy his descriptions: "Latin America was [never] going
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Richard Rodríguez is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodríguez (1982). His work has appeared in Harper's, The American Scholar, the Los Ángeles 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

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