The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Five Things You Might Not Know about Rudolfo Anaya

Washington, DC

by Paulette Beete

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.

1. Rudolfo Anaya received an NEA literature fellowship in 1979. He received the National Medal of Arts---the highest honor given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government---in 2001, the same year as Johnny Cash, Judith Jamison, Kirk Douglas, Helen Frankenthaler, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Nicholson, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.

2. Born and raised in New Mexico, Anaya spoke only Spanish until he started first grade.

3. The character of Ultima literally came to Anaya in a dream, after he'd already started writing Antonio's story. As he related in an interview with the NEA, "One night when I was writing late at night Ultima appeared to me?She stood at the door and she asked me what I was doing and I said I was writing a story. And she said that she had to be in the story. When I asked her her name she said, 'Ultima.'"

4. Anaya has two master's degrees---one in literature, and one in guidance and counseling. Both were earned at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he also earned his undergraduate degree in English lit.

5. According to, a Bless Me, Ultima film is currently in production and expected to be released in 2011. (You can check out our film--A Conversation with Rudolfo Anaya--on The Big Read website.)

Want to find out who's reading, discussing, and celebrating Bless Me, Ultima near you? Visit the calendar page on The Big Read website.


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