Richard Rodriguez begins his latest book, Darling, with an unfussy dedication to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, a Catholic women’s group committed to helping the sick and destitute. This Baptism, if you will, is the first and surely the most straightforward indication within the book that Rodriguez intends to delve into his complex relationship with religion. Because though the path that lies beyond that dedication is weird and wonderful, readers will find that it’s far from a direct route.
Rodriguez says the impetus for Darling, a collection of 10 essays about spirituality, was the Sept. 11 attacks. While much of America turned into itself in the wake of the tragedy, searching for meaning and refuge in patriotism and familiarity, Rodriguez did the opposite. “It was in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11 that I came to the realization that the God I worship is a desert God,” he writes in the first chapter. “It was to the same desert God the terrorists prayed.”