Autobiography in Black and Brown

Ethnic Identity in Richard Wright and Richard Rodriguez
By 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.

Contributor Bios
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.