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Rudolfo Anaya was the guest of the honor at one of the inaugural Big Reads of Bless Me, Ultima in 2007. Photo courtesy of Bernalillo County, New Mexico.

In Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya wrote, "There are so many dreams to be fulfilled, but Ultima says a man's destiny must unfold itself like a flower, with only the sun and the earth and water making it blossom." In this interview excerpt, Anaya shares how he himself blossomed not just into a writer, but---as fellow author Tony HIllerman has dubbed him---"the godfather and guru of Chicano literature."

Becoming a writer is an evolutionary process. There is no one certain point or occurrence or experience. I loved to read when I was in grade school. I used to write great book reports [and] book reviews and illustrate them. I also liked art.  I noticed that when I was in high school I kind of quit reading and was not too motivated. And then I went up to the university and began to read literature, and that was it.

I think that whole idea of loving literature. . .starts that spark of, well I want to express myself also. I have these things, these emotions, and this beautiful past that I've known and people. I want to write about them and preserve them, and so I started writing poetry and short stories and novels.

I had had a very serious spinal cord injury accident when I was in high school, and that also figures a great deal into my life. Somehow that time of being in the hospital and dealing with recovery and seeing other kids my age really suffering a lot, seeing death, and then coming out of that experience was very important, informative. Again, that's one of the experiences that told me you have to write, you have to record, not only what happened to me but what happened to people around me. 

Somehow I always thought that there's so much beauty in people, the people especially that I knew as a child. The town drunk was a hero to me.  The ranchers that would come in and visit with my dad told fantastic stories, and I'd sit there and listen.  And sometimes we'd sit around the dinner table or in the summers we'd go out and make a little fire near the house and tell stories and all of that. The whole idea of that oral tradition sparks the imagination.

Want to hear more from Anaya about his seminal novel? Check out The Big Read video guide on Bless Me, Ultima.  (And don't forget to visit The Big Read calendar to find out about Big Read activities taking place near you.)




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