A Spiritual Autobiography

Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780670025305
  • 256 Pages
  • Viking
  • Adult


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 first book in a decade from the Pulitzer Prize finalist—moves from Jerusalem to Silicon Valley, from Moses to Liberace, from Lance Armstrong to Mother Teresa. Rodriguez is a homosexual who writes with love of the religions of the desert that exclude him. He is a passionate, unorthodox Christian who is always mindful of his relationship to Judaism and Islam because of a shared belief in the God who revealed himself within an ecology of emptiness. And at the center of this book is a consideration of women—their importance to Rodriguez’s spiritual formation and their centrality to the future of the desert religions.

Only a mind as elastic and refined as Rodriguez’s could bind these threads together into this wonderfully complex tapestry.


Praise for Darling

“A rich tapestry, a Persian carpet of a book….The deep pleasures of [Darling] defy the usual capsule account.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Over thirty years now, [Richard Rodriguez] has maintained a fierce, rigorous, ironic, and sincere cross-examination of both contemporary America and himself….[His] refusal to settle for easy answers or fixed assumptions is exactly what makes Rodriguez so essential.”—Pico Iyer, New York Review of Books

“Richard Rodriguez may be the most empathic essayist in America….His sentences are reliable joys: liquid and casual, they slip in and out of philosophy and anecdote noiselessly, like people padding through an empty chapel, expecting to hear nothing more than the sound of their own passage.”—Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker

“The phenomenal writing carries the day….A deeply humanistic voice.”—The Boston Globe

“Rodriguez continues to find meaning in both the desert and the idea of paradise, and while his wide-ranging, erudite, passionate, and thought-provoking essays range over a wealth of seemingly disparate topics, they all reflect his remarkable ability to penetrate the contradictions of our lives, reveling in them as much as understanding them.”—Booklist

“[Rodriguez] is, quite simply, one of the finest prose stylists now writing in English. These essays are discursive gems; there is a subtle musicality to each sentence that adds to his sophisticated and compassionate vision.”—Shelf Awareness

“[Rodriguez’s] charming, associative prose is reminiscent of James Baldwin…Darling is a revelation.”—Financial Times

“An eccentric mélange of a book….Under Rodriguez’ guidance…all the pieces are connected slowly until the project as a whole reveals itself. It’s as if you’ve been wandering for miles in a desert and, suddenly, your salvation appears.”—NPR.org

“The ten essays of this ‘spiritual autobiography’ are beautiful examples of thinking something through with not just intelligence and verve but wholeheartedness and compassion….[Rodriguez] is among the very best essayists of his generation….These magnificent ‘personal-classical’ essays will be read and enjoyed for many decades to come, darling.”—The Washington Post

“[Richard Rodriguez’s] doubt-season Catholic belief reveals the time he inhabits as out of joint, freeing him from what Chesterton called ‘the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.’ He’s as free as suicide bomber, this master of the literary essay.”—Commonweal

“It would not be a stretch to call Rodriguez our greatest living essayist….He is an inward writer who is always looking out toward issues of race, spirituality, sexuality, and heritage.”—David Gessner, Ecotone

“With compassion and profundity of vision, Rodriguez offers a compelling view of modern spirituality that is as multifaceted as it is provocative.”—Kirkus (starred review)

“Engaging and readable, this highly personal and candid discovery…will delight Rodriguez’s fans.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Darling is a remarkable collection, one that will no doubt strengthen Rodriguez’s reputation as being one of America’s finest essayists.”—The El Paso Times

Darling links its illumination of the ‘desert God’ of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam…to a more personal history…but its inquiries range much further than personal experience.”—Leslie Jamison, The New York Times Book Review

“[Richard Rodriguez] is, as always, a biographer of ideas, of the conflicted histories carried in our flesh….What he does, patiently, artfully, is make an honest confession, describing the contours of his faith without apology.”—Image

“For some readers, ‘delighting with complexity’ may seem a conundrum. It can be a valid experience as anyone familiar with Rodriguez’s lucid writing will attest. Further, analyzing complexity—as a topic from a literary perspective—does not mean writing to confuse; it means opening up a complicated issue with clarity.”—The Buffalo News

Praise for Brown: The Last Discovery of America

“It may be a while yet before America is as comfortable with the ambiguities of its complexion as Rodriguez is. In the meantime, he injects some desperately needed complexity into America’s thorniest debate.”—Mother Jones
“The recurrent strands of [Rodriguez’s] though—family, religion, education, race, sex, California, America, Mexico—gain new resonance each time and stand, in the end, for the complexity of a whole greater than the sum of its parts.”—The New York Times Book Review

Praise for Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father

“Days of Obligation looks into America—north and south of the Rio Grande—as penetratingly and eloquently as Camus did when he compared the mental landscapes of France and Algiers.”—David Lohrey, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“It is like nothing I have ever read before, and the sheer dazzle of its suggestions says more about America than anything I have read since Lawrence.”—Pico Iyer, author of Falling Off the Map
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