Shelf Control #311: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Bless Me, Ultima
Author: Rudolfo Anaya
Published: 1972
Length: 297 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Stories filled with wonder and the haunting beauty of his culture have helped make Rudolfo Anaya the father of Chicano literature in English, and his tales fairly shimmer with the lyric richness of his prose. Acclaimed in both Spanish and English, Anaya is perhaps best loved for his classic bestseller …

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. ‘We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,’ says Antonio’s mother. ‘It is not the way of our people,’ agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio’s family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul. 

How and when I got it:

I bought a used paperback edition a few years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I was aware of this book for many years — yet another modern classic that somehow passed me by back in my high school and college years. Bless Me, Ultima came back to my attention in 2018 when PBS presented its The Great American Read program.

Bless Me, Ultima came in at #91 on the Great American Read list of top 100 books. (You can see the rest of the list here.) After the list came out, I set myself a very loose challenge to read more of the books on the list, with five titles as my short-term goal. Bless Me, Ultima was one of my five, but sadly, I still haven’t gotten to it.

While I wasn’t particularly familiar with the plot, I knew that this book has won awards, been targeted for censorship, and is often considered a must-read when it comes to diverse coming of age stories. For all these reasons, I’m interested in learning more about it and would like to read it… and just need to break away from my focus on new and recently published books to make time for it.

Have you read Bless Me, Ultima? If so, do you recommend it?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Have fun!

8 thoughts on “Shelf Control #311: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

  1. I’ve never read this, but my daughter had to read it in high school, and all I remember is her complaining about reading it, lol. So I don’t have very fond memories of that. I think she even watch the movie so she could take the test at school so she wouldn’t have to finish it. Sometimes I can hardly believe I’m related to her🤣

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