In a series of 10 essays, spanning five centuries of history, beginning with the conquest of Mexico by Hermán Cortés and ending in 1992 San Francisco, Rodriguez explores the conflicts of race, religion, and cultural identity for Mexican-Americans across the landscape of his beloved California. The book's "argument" poses Mexico and the United States as moral rivals. Mexico wears the mask of tragedy, the United States wears the mask of comedy. By the end of the book, the reader recognizes an historical irony: the United States is becoming a culture of tragedy; Mexico, meanwhile, revels in youthful optimism. Mexico and the United States have changed roles.
"Luminous....[Rodriguez's] insights, irony, and descriptions make the writing richly evocative." (Publishers Weekly)
"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." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"The best American essayist as far as I'm concerned....[Rodriguez] doesn't kowtow to political correctness. He shuns the pack, rides alone. He writes a lonely line of individualism, the grandeur and grief of the American soul." (Village Voice)
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