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Richard Rodriguez

writer, 2003 Melcher Book Award

Richard Rodriguez was born on July 31, 1944, in San Francisco, California, to Mexican immigrants Leopoldo and Victoria Moran Rodriguez, the third of their four children. When Rodriguez was still a young child, the family moved to Sacramento, California, to a small house in a comfortable white neighborhood. Optimism and ambition led them to a house many blocks from the Mexican side of town. He is the author of *Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez*, his well-received 1981 autobiography. Rodriguez, who could barely speak English when he started elementary school, finished his academic efforts as a Fulbright scholar in Renaissance literature with degrees from Stanford University and Columbia University. Perched on the edge of a brilliant career in academia, but uncomfortable with what he viewed as the unwarranted advantage given him by affirmative action, Rodriguez refused a number of teaching jobs at prestigious universities. He felt that receiving preference and assistance based on his classification as a minority was unfair to others. This dramatic decision, along with a number of anti-affirmative action essays published in the early to mid-1970s, made Rodriguez a somewhat notorious national figure. After leaving academia, Rodriguez spent the next six years writing the essays that comprise *Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez*, aided for part of that time by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Before being compiled into book form, many of the essays appeared in publications such as *Columbia Forum*, *American Scholar*, and *College English*. Since 1981, Rodriguez has continued his writing career, occasionally serving as an essayist for the PBS series *MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour* and also working as an editor with the Pacific News Service in California. In 1992, he published *Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father*, another collection of previously issued autobiographical essays. The book, which did not receive the same acclaim and admiration as his first book, covers such topics as Rodriguez's Mexican and Indian heritage, his homosexuality, and the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.