Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima
By Rudolfo A. Anaya
Warner Books, (1973) 1994. 250 pages. Fiction.

This widely acclaimed and award winning novel for Chicano literature, tells of a young boy in New Mexico in the 1940s as he experiences the ups and downs of growing up. Antonio bonds with Ultima, a curandera (native traditional healer) as she lives with his struggling family. Ultima takes Antonio on a spiritual journey as he learns about the grittier aspects of life.  Antonio must negotiate his parents differing backgrounds, religion. life and death, healing powers, post WWII realities, and good and evil, ultimately arriving at who he wants to become. Antonio credits the shaping of life to this kind old woman who taught him and cared for him when his world was a turbulent and confusing mess.

This book is a classic that sinks into your soul and changes you- I highly recommend it for all mature teens and adults. Anaya writes with imaginative description and visceral clarity about the realities of life so this novel is not a thematically easy or relaxing read. I enjoyed the insights into New Mexican life during this time period and how the different worlds colliding must have been hard for a young person to grow up in. Coming of age stories always resonate with me and since Antonio must grapple with so many big issues, I found myself going on the same spiritual journey with him as I realized my own feelings on the issues.

Author read alike page found here.


1 comment:

MW said...

I first read Bless Me, Ultima for a summer reading assignment for 11th grade English class, and it hold a top place on my “I’m So Glad I Was Forced to Read This” list. I’m usually a fan of coming of age tales, and this book is one of the most beautifully written of kind. Antonio finds himself leaving childhood and facing opposing forces from which his previous innocence has kept him sheltered. Antonio’s struggles include many we all face growing up: navigating familial relationships, especially those with his parents and their different visions for their son’s future, the loss of innocence he observes in himself and his older siblings, and the ever-present conflict between good and evil. With great skill, Anaya describes Antonio’s journey in such a way that honestly addresses these serious subjects while also weaving a fantasy-like atmosphere. Antonio’s experience feels very much like an odyssey of legend, which with each reading feels just as new and illuminating as the first.