The Credible Source for Latino Literature


Autobrownography of a New England Latino
by Jose B. Gonzalez

In 1967, San Salvador, El Salvador fathered my brown,

And so I was born in the capital that salutes

The Pacific, the mother of so many brown rivers,

Lakes, ponds, that held hands with volcanic rocks

That tumbled brown, burned the soil brown,

And browned the country in civil brown turmoil

In the 1970s, when my family left to New England,

Where factories, my mother’s sewing machine

And my father’s spray paint machine were brown,

And I first attended John Winthrop Elementary School,

A school full of browns, a “Separate but equal,” type

Of brown that was not El Salvador brown 

But a Desperate-to-move-out-of-the-projects brown,

And so my parents poured their wages into tuition

For a private middle school classroom

Where I was the only brown, and I was taught to make

My language a less subtle brown, so that by the time I

Attended New London High School, which had shades

Of Puerto Rican brown and tints of Latin American brown

I had shed so much brown that I was accused

Of not being enough brown, but I figured

I knew the roots of my brown, and felt comfortable

Enough with my brown, even if I was losing some

Of my Spanish brown, and I continued to lose

It too, not because I wanted to, but because

Most of the brown at the college I attended

Was Republican brown, which spoke a different dialect

Of brown, and by the end of my four years,

My Spanish brown had faded so much that it became an

Anglicized Spanish brown, and I was awarded

The college’s excellence in English award,

Which I was pretty sure had never been given

To a graduating brown, and when they said, “this

Year’s recipient is, Jose Gonzalez Brown,” I could

Have sworn I saw hundreds of people scrape

Their ears in an attempt to fix whatever

Was making them hear brown, and after graduating,

I figured I’d get a job teaching English, even if

I was brown, but at an interview for an English

Teaching position at a small boarding school,

The headmaster’s eyes told me that if I was serious about

Getting a job, I’d teach Spanish brown, because

There’s such a shortage of Spanish browns,

To which I said, “thank you headmaster, but,

I, I, I’d just assume not teach Spanish brown,”

And when his office door responded with, “Thank you, Mr.

Brown, but unless you’re willing to teach

Spanish brown, I won’t have a job for you,

Mr. Brown,” I changed my mind and did

What I had to, even if my first language was no

Longer Spanish brown, and I taught there until one

Brown day in the middle of the school year,

I just had to ask, “I know you hired me

For something else, but someday can I teach English

Here, even if I am brown?” And his desk looked

At me like, “if you didn’t want to teach

Spanish brown, maybe you shouldn’t have been brown,”

Which told me it was time for me to leave that master

And get my Master’s and I decided to attend what else?

Brown University, which was Ivy League brown,

And you want to talk about a different shade of brown? 

That was like a culture-shock brown, “Mamihelpme,

Thisisabadnovela, I neverseenthisbefore,” kind

Of brown, and there were so many educated,

Liberal browns, I thought that there had been some

Kind of going out of business clearance sale

On diplomas for browns, not that the majority

Was brown, but I just wasn’t too used

To associating the college experience

With browns, so even a little a little bit of brown

Was enough to make me think that colleges

Were turning somewhat brown, and while

At Brown, I student-taught at Providence’s Hope

High School which had many browns, so I

Wanted very badly for my students to recognize

My brown and say if he’s at Brown and he’s brown,

There’s hope for us young browns, but they just

Thought I was Brown University brown, not inner-

City brown, and students couldn’t see themselves

In my brown, and so unaccustomed were they to seeing

Any shade of brown in front of their class that they

Thought it was impossible that I could be raised

Brown, but I didn’t let that get me too much down,

And when I graduated from Brown, I became a Brown

Brown, a brown squared, a Brown times brown,

Which for some people, teachers even, only meant

That I was Ivy Brown because I am brown, which made me

Want to point to Brown graduates who were Brown

Because their parents or grandparents were Brown,

Making them legacy Browns, Browns cubed, and I

Continued my schooling at the University of Rhode

Island, and worked toward my Ph.D. because of,

Not in spite of being brown, and I studied literature

That was brown, because growing up, I had been

Assigned stories like “Young Goodman Brown,” but

I had never been assigned a book by a brown author,

Which never made sense to me because I just knew

That in all the years that browns had been in the U.S.,

Even in the part that was brown before the U.S. became

The U.S., browns had to have something to say, even if

It wasn’t about being brown, and while I worked

On my brown dissertation, I taught English at Three Rivers

Community college, which had quite a few browns,

So many of whom juggled coursework with family

And jobs and being brown that it was tough for them

To one day say, “I have a college degree even though

I’m brown,” which made me appreciate being educated

And being brown and I became ABD, A Brown Doctor,

And probably became URI’s first English Ph.D.

Brown, which isn’t that big a deal because in higher

Education if you’re brown you can lay claim

To being the first this and that as a brown,

And that’s why when I tell people that I’m a professor

Of English, every once in a while someone says

Something like, “Dr. Brown, you must teach

A different type of English that has to have

Some kind of brown, maybe you teach second

Language Brown English or remedial brown

English, or developmental English for the brown,

Because after all you’re brown.”

But it matters none to me, master of my own

Brown destiny, because even on the coldest,

Snowiest day in Connecticut, even when it seems

I’ve been brownbeaten, I can still feel the power

Of my own brown, brown like a brown who beat

The Board of Ed, brown like a brown trunk

Of a brown tree that’s been whacked and whacked and

Whacked and whacked until it’s become nothing but

A strong, brown wooden frame that holds a brown

Diploma high up in the air, telling the world,

“I’m educated, and

I’m brown.”

From Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature

Copyright 2006 design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie


Last Updated: July 24, 2012