‘Bless Me, Ul­tima’ named in top 100 Great Amer­i­can Reads

Ru­dolfo Anaya is only na­tive New Mex­i­can au­thor on the list

The Taos News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Yvonne Pes­quera socialmedia@taos­news.com The Taos News cu­ran­dera, llano luna. cu­ran­dera pbs.org/the-great-amer­i­can­read.

Ru­dolfo Anaya’s 1972 novel “Bless Me, Ul­tima,” which tells a boy’s com­ing of age story in New Mex­ico af­ter World War II, has been named in the top 100 Great Amer­i­can Reads, an eight­part se­ries aired by the Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Sys­tem.

About 7,200 Amer­i­can read­ers were asked: What is your fa­vorite book and why? The se­ries ex­plored how read­ers are af­fected by the fic­tional worlds cre­ated by au­thors. The 100 dif­fer­ent books speak to the diver­sity of the United States as well as to shared hu­man ex­pe­ri­ences.

Anaya’s book tells the story of a His­panic boy grow­ing up in east­ern New Mex­ico un­der the guid­ance of his men­tor, the lo­cal set­tle­ment’s or tra­di­tional healer, who comes to live with his fam­ily. Yet the book had enough wide ap­peal across Amer­ica to be ranked at No. 91 on the PBS sur­vey.

In 2015 Anaya was pre­sented with a Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties medal. The White House ci­ta­tion read: “For his pi­o­neer­ing sto­ries of the Amer­i­can South­west. His works of fic­tion and po­etry cel­e­brate the Chi­cano ex­pe­ri­ence and re­veal uni­ver­sal truths about the hu­man con­di­tion.”

Anaya, an Al­bu­querque res­i­dent, said in his ac­cep­tance speech of the NEH Medal: “I’ve been think­ing a lot about what this recog­ni­tion means, and I’ve de­cided it’s not just about me… this award is about the peo­ple of New Mex­ico.”

Laura Lynch, chair of the writ­ing and speak­ing de­part­ment at Univer­sity of New Mex­ico-Taos, said, “Ru­dolfo Anaya’s tran­scen­dent com­ing-of-age novel trans­ports read­ers to the lyri­cal pres­ence of New Mex­ico’s

and “Ul­tima” weaves His­panic, and lo­cal Catholic folk tra­di­tions and de­serves its place in our canon of great Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture.”

Born in Pas­tura, New Mex­ico, Anaya is the only na­tive New Mex­i­can au­thor to make the Great Amer­i­can Reads list. He is a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico in the de­part­ment of lit­er­a­ture. Here in Taos, he once served on the ad­vi­sory board of SOMOS, the lit­er­ary or­ga­ni­za­tion. In 2009, “Bless Me, Ul­tima” was the fo­cus of a mass-read­ing event called the Taos Big Read and was made into a film in 2013, di­rected by Carl Franklin.

“‘Bless Me, Ul­tima’ helps young and old Taoseños/ Taoseñas rec­og­nize them­selves and the beauty of their tra­di­tions,” Lynch said. “This is a great honor for Mr. Anaya and all New Mex­i­cans.”

Find the full read­ing list at:

Photo by Chris Bratt.

Au­thors Ru­dolfo Anaya and John Ni­chols at the Frank Wa­ters Foun­da­tion 2005 heal­ing con­fer­ence.

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