The Big Read Blog (Archive)

From the Desk of Rudolfo Anaya . . . .

January 12, 2008
El Paso, TX

Having run a deodorant along my left jowl yesterday morning before realizing I wasn't shaving, it's probably not surprising that I should find myself in the El Paso airport just now, blogberrying. Luckily, I've started a feature here where I take each Big Read book and spotlight a key review that helped propel it into the culture. I had a feeling Bless Me Ultima might be a special case, so I asked Rudolfo Anaya how the novel first made its way:

Rudolfo Anaya speaking at National Hispanic Cultural Center. Photo by Katie Trujillo.


Dear David Kipen, glad to meet you at the Big Read celebration at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Alburquerque. And thanks for that ... commentary you wrote (Separated at Launch, 10/18/07). Yes, love was in the air. I am blessed by those who came to celebrate my work.

In regard to early reviews of BMU, there were few. Most of us who were publishing with Quinto Sol in the early 70s -- and with other small presses publishing the Chicano/a writers of that generation -- didn't get reviewed in the big time media.

We grew up in the midst of the Chicano Movement (Movimiento Chicano). Word of mouth got our books out to the public. Thank God for Chicano Studies programs in university campuses. That's how we got invited to do readings and speak about our work.

I usually took a box of books with me to sell. We could never rely on the bookstores. Later, it got better. The bookstores would have the books available for sale. But for many years I had to cart my own books to readings, in the universities or in community venues.

All the writers did. The small presses didn't have the resources to help with a lot of publicity. By the time I paid my publisher for the books and my meals I didn't make any profit. But the books were out there and BMU was making ripples in the Chicano community, in the universities, and people began to take notice.

Those good days. I met wonderful people and most of the writers of the Movement. I would not trade those heady days for anything. We were in charge of our destiny and we made the most of it. I think we made an impact in the cultural life of our community at first, and then the ripples spread farther out.

Now thanks for all you do, and people like you who encouraged this country to read the diversity of its writers.