“Darling,” by Richard Rodriguez, presents itself as a “spiritual autobiography.” The writing is as personal as billed, but these 10 essays, some previously published elsewhere, do not form a single, continuous story. Instead, they follow the Rodriguez method, which is to examine major dimensions of American society in the first person with a deeply humanistic voice that is politically hard to place.
Rodriguez’s past collections, issued at decade-long intervals, addressed class, ethnicity, and race. Religion is a different matter. A social category, to be sure, but one that engages individual belief, doubt, and choice. This is fertile and vulnerable terrain — in a good way — for Rodriguez, who is as ardently Catholic as he is proudly gay.