Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time

A riveting memoir of cultural crossfire

“Dad was a Mexican Catholic. Mom was a Kansas City–born Jew with Eastern European immigrant parents. They fell in love in Berkeley, California, and got married in Kansas City, Missouri.

That alone would not have been a big deal. But it happened in 1933, when such marriages were rare. And my parents spent most of their lives in Kansas City, a place both racially segregated and religiously divided.

 Mom and Dad chose to be way ahead of their time; I didn’t. But because of them, I had to be. My mixed background meant that, however unwillingly, I had to learn to live as an outsider.”

The son of a Mexican Catholic father with aristocratic roots and a mother of Eastern European Jewish descent, Carlos Cortés grew up wedged between cultures, living a childhood in “constant crossfire-straddling borders, balancing loves and loyalties, and trying to fit into a world that wasn’t quite ready.” In some ways, even his family wasn’t quite ready (for him). His request for a bar mitzvah sent his proud father into a cursing rage. He was terrified to bring home the Catholic girl he was dating, for fear of wounding his mother and grandparents. When he tried to join a high school fraternity, Christians wouldn’t take him because he was Jewish, and Jews looked sideways at him because his father was Mexican.

In his new memoir, Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time, Cortés lovingly chronicles his family’s tumultuous, decades-long spars over religion, class, and culture, from his early years in legally segregated Kansas City during the 1940s to his return to Berkeley (where his parents met) in the 1950s, and to his parents’ separation, reconciliation, deaths, and eventual burials at the Rose Hill Cemetery. Cortés elevates the theme of intermarriage to a new level of complexity in this closely observed and emotionally fraught memoir adapted from his nationally successful one-man play, A Conversation with Alana: One Boy’s Multicultural Rite of Passage.

Copublished with the Inlandia Institute

Hear author Carlos Cortés read from Rose Hill:


“Carlos Cortés has written a memoir which matches the distinctive and diverse history of his family—an engaging and far-traveling story populated with irascible and loving relatives whose lives illustrate a uniquely American story.”—Susan Straight, author of Take One Candle Light a Room

A funny, honest, and ultimately celebratory look at what it feels like to grow up in the American melting pot. This unique memoir is not to be missed.”—Whitney Terrell, author of The King of Kings County

“Part intrigue and mystery, part conflict and tension, part humor and love, and ultimately, a tale of acceptance and redemption.”—Sonia Nieto, author of Affirming Diversity

“Amazing, funny, sad, and totally memorable. Fascination and enjoyment are guaranteed.”—Barnett Helzberg Jr., author of What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett


“While Cortés offers what is, on one level, an intensely personal story, Rose Hill is chock-full of broader insight and universal wisdom.”—Joseph Zolner, senior director, Harvard Institutes for Higher Education


“Should be required reading for star-crossed lovers who need to realize that marriage would mean the sharing, the merging, of different backgrounds. For any of a different religion and/or race already married, it offers lessons on the importance of communication, tolerance, and compromise. And in the end it tells us that even if the relationship is tumlutuous because neither side is willing to communicate, tolerate, or compromise, the love they share may still trump the differences.”—Western States Jewish History

About the Author

Carlos E. CortésCarlos E. Cortés is a professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach about Diversity and is a creative/cultural advisor for Nickelodeon’s Peabody Award–winning children’s television series Dora the Explorer and its spinoff, Go, Diego, Go!, for which he received a 2009 NAACP Image Award. He performs his one-man autobiographical play, A Conversation with Alana: One Boy's Multicultural Rite of Passage, across the country and has lectured widely throughout the world. He is General Editor of the Sage Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, due out in 2013.