Arts » Lit

For Richard Rodriguez, Brown Upends Racial Categories

Thursday, Jan. 17

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In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois said that the problem of 20th century America was the problem of the color line. Then the 20th century proved him right: After years of segregation following hundreds of years of slavery, the United States began the slow process of discontinuing the legal basis for racial bias and combating racism in American culture.

The racial complexity of America in the 21st century is the topic of discussion by Richard Rodriguez, who shares themes from his book, Brown: The Last Discovery of America (2003), at the Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum as part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' multidisciplinary project.

Rodriguez—a contributing editor at New America Media in San Francisco—has written for publications in the United States and abroad and has further explored issues of race, ethnicity and class in Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, Days of Obligation: An Argument with my Mexican Father, and Brown.

He won the George Foster Peabody Award in 1997 for his essays on American life on NewsHour and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction writing.

In Brown, Rodriguez uses the color as a metaphor for the states of being between black and white, rich and poor, and foreign and domestic. America is as much divided by these categories as it is united by the decay of the lines between them. Rodriguez is a perfect example, describing himself as a "queer Catholic Indian Spaniard at home in a temperate Chinese city in a fading blond state in a post-Protestant nation."

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