Monday, September 23, 2013

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
An Audiobook Review

Bless Me, Ultima is the coming of age story of Antonio, and  encompasses the two years of his life when Ultima lives with his family.  Tony is the youngest child in his large New Mexican family.   His mother wants him to grow up and be a priest in the Catholic church and his father wants him to grow up to be a vaquero like his ancestors and belong to the land of his people.

Ultima is getting older and is coming to live with Antonio's family.  She is a healer, a wise woman also called a curandera and she was the midwife present when Antonio was born.  She teaches Tony about the herbs and old ways of his people.  Some people say she is a witch but Ultima seeks to do good things with her magic.   Antonio straddles two worlds, the strong faith of his mother's catholicism and the indigenous ways of his ancestors in which Ultima practices.  Antonio must learn to forge a path that is respectful of each yet he feels he needs to reconcile the teachings of the church with his cultural practices.

"From my mother I had learned that man is of the earth, that his clay feet are part of the ground that nourishes him, and that this is the inextricable mixture that gives man his measure of safety and security. Because man plants in the earth he believes in the miracle of birth, and he provides a home for his family, and he builds a church to preserve his faith and the soul that is bound to his flesh, his clay. But from my father and Ultima I had learned that the greater immortality is in the freedom of man, and that freedom is best nourished by the noble experience of land and air and pure, white sky."

I listened to the audiobook of Bless Me, Ultima and loved it!!  The narrator is easy to listen to and the story is full of action.  Bless Me, Ultima is the kind of story I always want to listen to, the type where my mind couldn't wander away from it even if it wanted to.  There are so many intriguing elements in this story.  There is magical realism, cultural myths, history of the land, tradition and superstition and layers of powerful imagery.  I loved listening to Antonio's dream sequences and knew he was learning about himself and the people he loved.  Truly this book is amazing.

Antonio is searching for his truth and faces some horrific realities.  He witnesses murder and hatred, yet he holds on to his faith and respect for the people and land.  Antonio is wise beyond his years, an old soul.  Bless Me, Ultima is truly a powerful and important book and full of cultural layers.  

Bless Me, Ultima is the first book in a trilogy.  Heart of Aztlan is the second book and Tortuga is the third.  Bless Me, Ultima was recently made into a movie.  Rudolfo Anaya is known as one of the best Chicano authors and Bless Me, Ultima is highly respected and taught in schools around the nation.  It was awarded the book prize, Premio Quinto Sol.  Bless Me, Ultima is also on the list of most commonly challenged books in the United States.  So in honor of Banned Books Week and celebrating your freedom to read, I encourage you to read this powerful book.