Literary Criticism •  African American Studies and Chicana and Chicano

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Autobiography in Black and Brown: Ethnic Identity in Richard Wright and Richard Rodriguez

Michael Nieto Garcia

Richard Wright was the grandson of slaves, Richard Rodriguez the son of immigrants. One black, the other brown, each author prominently displays his race in the title of his autobiography: Black Boy and Brown. Wright was a radical left-winger, while Rodriguez is widely viewed as a reactionary. Despite their differences, Michael Nieto Garcia points out, the two share a preoccupation with issues of agency, class struggle, ethnic identity, the search for community, and the quest for social justice. Garcia’s study, the first to compare these two widely read writers, argues that ethnic autobiography reflects the complexity of ethnic identity, revealing a narrative self that is bound to a visible ethnicity yet is also protean and free.


Michael Nieto Garcia is an associate professor of literature at Clarkson University. His essays have appeared in various academic journals, as well as in the critical collections Identifying with Freedom: Indonesia after Suharto and The Culture and Philosophy of Ridley Scott. He is currently at work on Richard Rodriguez for the Contemporary Latino Writers and Directors series.


“In his insightful book, Garcia . . . demonstrates how Wright and Rodriguez use and yet go beyond racialized notions of consciousness—namely, W. E. B. Du Bois’s theorizations of ‘double consciousness’ and Gloria Anzuldúa’s of multiple consciousness and mestizaje—to illuminate the complexities of ethnic identities, (masculine) embodiment, and (racialized) subjectivity and personhood that speak to and about communities of color and society at large. . . . Highly recommended.”



“Garcia provides a highly original and penetrating reassessment of (Wright and Rodriguez), as well as a careful study of how Hispanic and black American literatures are integrally related to each other. . . . An indispensable resource for generalists and specialists alike.”


African American Review

“At once synthetic and dialectical, Garcia’s analyses lead an incisive comparative study of two of the twentieth century’s great autobiographers, Richard Wright and Richard Rodriguez. It adds to and enlarges the frame of autobiographical studies. It radically reframes how we think of the ethnic subject authoring autobiographies.”



6 x 9 in. 240 pages