Brown: The Last Discovery of America

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-11-19 02:28Z by Steven

Brown: The Last Discovery of America

Penguin Books
256 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780142000793
eBook ISBN: 9781101161500

Richard Rodriguez

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 country is, full of surprising observations by a writer who is a marvelous stylist as well as a trenchant observer and thinker.

Table of Contents

  • Brown – Richard Rodriguez Preface
  • One: The Triad of Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Two: In the Brown Study
  • Three: The Prince and I
  • Four: Poor Richard
  • Five: Hispanic
  • Six: The Third Man
  • Seven: Dreams of a Temperate People
  • Eight: Gone West
  • Nine: Peter’s Avocado
  • Acknowledgments
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Postracial Mestizaje: Richard Rodriguez’s Racial Imagination in an America Where Everyone Is Beginning to Melt

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-19 02:21Z by Steven

Postracial Mestizaje: Richard Rodriguez’s Racial Imagination in an America Where Everyone Is Beginning to Melt

American Studies
Volume 54, Number 1, 2015
pages 89-113
DOI: 10.1353/ams.2015.0007

Lee Bebout, Associate Professor of English
Arizona State University

And it seemed to me that the larger questions about America that the color raised is the fact that we are, all of us, in our various colors, our various hues, melting into each other and creating a brown nation. I tried to write a brown book, that is, brownly, by engaging contradiction and paradox, and rhetorical devices that suggest the way that I experience my own life. That is, for example, as the descendent of a conquistador and the Indian—as a Hispanic.

Richard Rodriguez

In recent years, racial formation in the United States has thrived in precipitous tension. Since the social and political tumult of the various freedom struggles from the 1950s to the 1970s and the rise of multiculturalism, explicitly racist discourses and practices have fallen from favor. Yet as many have noted, the material saliency of race is felt as much as ever. Thus, we are left with a wide array of seeming contradictions that maintain white supremacy and other forms of inequality in the guise of fairness and the protection of rights: ever-rising incarceration rates in communities of color through mandatory sentencing and policies of disparate impact, delegitimization campaigns against the first African American President of the United States through questions of his birthright citizenship, anti-(Latino) immigration policies that respond to the Hispanicization of America that mark people under “reasonable suspicion” of foreignness, and the targeting and banning of Mexican American Studies curricula by calling for students to be treated as individuals. These are but a few examples of the dynamic tension of racial formation in contemporary U.S. culture. It is within this context that I seek to situate Richard Rodriguez’s exploration of race in America in his 2002 book Brown: The Last Discovery of America.

Responding in part to Huntingtonian fears of a “clash of civilizations” and a “browning of America,” Rodriguez exalts the impurity of brown as a great American tradition. For Rodriguez, it is not “Brown, … in the sense of pigment, necessarily, but brown because mixed, confused, lumped impure, unpasteurized, as motives are mixed, and the fluids of generations are mixed and emotions are unclear, and the tally of human progress and failure in every generation is mixed, and unaccounted for, missing in plain sight.”

Here one may find common ground between Rodriguez’s “brown” and theorizations of complex personhood by Gloria Anzaldúa and Avery Gordon. Each maps the interactions of multiple, contradictory elements that constitute any individual. For Anzaldúa, this means embracing rejected aspects of the self: the working class, the indigenous, and the queer. In complementary fashion, Gordon suggests that people are not so easily compartmentalized as either victims or agents of their own destiny. Together, they articulate the impurity that Rodriguez terms brown. As this article will demonstrate, however, even as Rodriguez seeks to contest notions of purity, racial and otherwise, Brown serves the interests of the dominant racial order vis-à-vis its relationship to neoliberal thought and discursive strategies. Through Brown, Rodriguez advances a post-racial mestizaje, an embrace of mixture and contradiction that seeks to subvert the social construct of race and yet simultaneously acquiesces to the logics that undergird current inequalities.

In a Brown Context

The political thrust of Rodriguez’s brown project takes on greater significance when placed in context with his earlier work and its critical response. A child of Mexican immigrants who came of age during the Chicano movement—although certainly not a part of it—Rodriguez is one of the most recognized Latina/o public intellectuals today. Yet his vocal arguments against bilingual education, ethnic studies, and affirmative action have long made him a target of criticism. With the publication of his first memoir, Hunger of Memory, and his speaking engagements in conservative circles, Rodriguez advanced a problematic argument of a split between private and public selves. For Rodriguez, his Mexican heritage and the Spanish language were relegated to the private, familial sphere. Because of this argument, Rodriguez became a veritable Hispanic, anti-Chicano boogieman. Tomás Rivera, Ramón Saldívar, William Nericcio, and others critiqued Rodriguez’s thinking, and sometimes Rodriguez himself, as the result of a colonized mind, blind to history and structural…

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Crossing the Color Line: Racial Passing in American Literature

Posted in Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-01-03 20:57Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Racial Passing in American Literature

Wesleyan University
AMST 322 / ENGL 319
Fall 2015

Amy Cynthia Tang, Assistant Professor of English

Narratives of racial passing having long captivated readers and critics alike for the way in which they provocatively raise questions about the construction, reinforcement, and subversion of racial categories. This course will consider several examples of the “literature of passing” as it has been established as a category within African American literature alongside more ambiguously classified 20th-century narratives of ethnic masquerade and cultural assimilation as a way of exploring how literary and film texts invoke, interrogate, and otherwise explore categories of race, gender, class, and sexual identity.

Key texts will include James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Nella Larsen’s Passing, Douglas Sirk’s film Imitation of Life, Richard Rodriguez’s memoir Hunger of Memory, Chang-Rae Lee’s novel A Gesture Life, and Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain.

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Mestizo Nations: Culture, Race, and Conformity in Latin American Literature

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2010-10-12 21:27Z by Steven

Mestizo Nations: Culture, Race, and Conformity in Latin American Literature

University of Arizona Press
May 2002
161 pages
9.6 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
ISBN-10: 0816521921
ISBN-13: 978-0816521920

Juan E. De Castro, Assistant Professor of Literature
The New School

Nationality in Latin America has long been entwined with questions of racial identity. Just as American-born colonial elites grounded their struggle for independence from Spain and Portugal in the history of Amerindian resistance, constructions of nationality were based on the notion of the fusion of populations heterogeneous in culture, race, and language. But this rhetorical celebration of difference was framed by a real-life pressure to assimilate into cultures always defined by Iberian American elites. In Mestizo Nations, Juan De Castro explores the construction of nationality in Latin American and Chicano literature and thought during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Focusing on the discourse of mestizaje—which proposes the creation of a homogenous culture out of American Indian, black, and Iberian elements—he examines a selection of texts that represent the entire history and regional landscape of Latin American culture in its Western, indigenous, and neo-African traditions from Independence to the present. Through them, he delineates some of the ambiguities and contradictions that have beset this discourse. Among texts considered are the Indianist novel Iracema by the nineteenth-century Brazilian author José de Alencar; the Tradiciones peruanas, Peruvian Ricardo Palma’s fictionalizations of national difference; and historical and sociological essays by the Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui and the Brazilian intellectual Gilberto Freyre. And because questions raised by this discourse are equally relevant to postmodern concerns with national and transnational heterogeneity, De Castro also analyzes such recent examples as the Cuban dance band Los Van Van’s use of Afrocentric lyrics; Richard Rodriguez’s interpretations of North American reality; and points of contact and divergence between José María Arguedas’s novel The Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below and writings of Gloria Anzaldúa and Julia Kristeva. By updating the concept of mestizaje as a critical tool for analyzing literary text and cultural trends—incorporating not only race, culture, and nationality but also gender, language, and politics—De Castro shows the implications of this Latin American discursive tradition for current critical debates in cultural and area studies. Mestizo Nations contains important insights for all Latin Americanists as a tool for understanding racial relations and cultural hybridization, creating not only an important commentary on Latin America but also a critique of American life in the age of multiculturalism.

Read the preface here.

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