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Essayist will read from his work, sign books

Richard Rodriguez
Richard Rodriguez

Award-winning author Richard Rodriguez will present a talk titled "The American Tongue: My Life en Ingles" on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 p.m. in Room 4-163.

A book signing will follow. His soon to be released book, "Brown: an Erotic History of the Americas," will be available along with his other works.

The son of Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez spoke primarily Spanish until he entered school. His 1982 memoir, "Hunger of Memory," describes how English language instruction distanced him from his parents' native culture. The New York Times Book Review called this work a "superb autobiographical essay," adding, "Mr. Rodriguez offers himself as an example of the long labor of change: its costs, about which he is movingly frank, its loneliness, but also its triumph."

Reading from an an essay titled "The Browning of America" on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" Rodriguez said in 1998, "I am a brown man in a black and white country. All of my life I have listened to the black and white conversation, like listening to a quarreling couple through a thin motel wall. In the 1950s and '60s I watched in awe as the Negro civil rights movement forced the end of segregation. There, on my family's black-and-white television, I saw President Johnson sign legislation marking an end of a black-and-white nation, and then the NBC peacock unfurled its wings, and America assumed color."

Now a resident of San Francisco, Rodriguez considers himself an essayist, having presented his pieces on "The NewsHour" for the past 11 years. His essays take an in-depth look at American life, emphasizing issues that include assimilation, bilingual education, affirmative action, the "browning" of America, religious and ethnic issues and more. In 1997 he received a George Foster Peabody Award for this work.

He is an editor at Pacific News Service and a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine, US News & World Report and the Sunday "Opinion" section of the Los Angeles Times. His books include "Hunger of Memory" and "Days of Obligation: an Argument with my Mexican Father." He has written two BBC documentaries.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 13, 2002.

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