NEA Big Read
Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

A novel is not written to explain a culture, it creates its own.

Rudolfo Anaya, 1992 (Copyright Marion Ettlinger)

Rudolfo A. Anaya is the celebrated author of Bless Me, Ultima (1972), a semi-autobiographical novel based on his childhood in Pastura, New Mexico. The author of more than 35 books, his novels, essays, children's books, and poetry include Tortuga (1979), The Legend of La Llorona (1984), Alburquerque (1992), Zia Summer (1995), and Elegy on the Death of César Chávez (2000).

Artist Charles Carrillo is largely responsible for the resurgence of interest in Spanish Colonial folk art in New Mexico. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he earned his BA, MA, and PhD from the University of New Mexico, where he teaches New Mexican folk art. He is an accomplished santero—a carver and painter of sacred figures—and was honored with an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 2006.

Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (2003-2009), is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004).

Author Tony Hillerman (1925-2008) was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, and was raised among the Pottawatomie and Seminole Indians. He served as president of the Mystery Writers of America, and many of his mysteries draw on Native American culture. His best-selling novels include Dance Hall of the Dead (1973), Coyote Waits (1990), and Hunting Badger (1999), and his memoir is titled Seldom Disappointed (2001).

Born in Los Angeles, Cheech Marin is an actor, director, writer, musician, art collector, and humanitarian. Acting credits include roles in Tin Cup (1996) and CBS's Judging Amy, as well as voices in The Lion King (1994) and Cars (2006). With Tommy Chong, Marin was half of the popular comedy duo "Cheech and Chong," starring in eight feature films. His personal collection of Chicano art is one of the largest in the world and has been exhibited in museums across the country.

Professor Margarite Fernández Olmos teaches courses in Spanish and Latin American Studies at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She wrote the first full-length book on Anaya, titled Rudolfo A. Anaya: A Critical Companion (1999). Co-editor of Contemporary Women Authors of Latin America (1983) and The Latino Reader (1997), she has written many articles for Spanish and English journals.

Writer Ishmael Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of many poems, essays, plays, and novels such as Mumbo Jumbo (1972), Writin' Is Fightin' (1988), and Airing Dirty Laundry (1993). His many honors include a Guggenheim Foundation Award and an NEA Literature Fellowship. Reed taught at the University of California, Berkeley, for more than 20 years.

Diane Thiel was born in Coral Gables, Florida. After earning her BA and MFA degrees from Brown University, Thiel lived in Europe and Latin America, taught at several universities, and performed extensive environmental work in Columbia and Peru. The award-winning poet of Echolocations (2000) and Resistance Fantasies (2004), Thiel is a professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Born in the farming community of Belen, New Mexico, herbalist Maclovia B. Sanchez de Zamora has been praised for her leadership in expanding the study and use of yerbas as remedies. She gives healing workshops and lectures.

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