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Reading Groups

University Libraries book discussion series schedules, discussion questions, and additional resources.

Fall 2018 Schedule

Book Preview
Oct. 8 | 5:30–7 p.m.
University Library Croslin Room

Book Discussion: Part I, Uno - Once
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Oct. 15 | 5:30–7 p.m.
University Library Croslin Room

Book Discussion: Part II, Doce - Ventidós
Oct. 22 | 5:30–7 p.m.
University Library Croslin Room

Note: Guests may park in the R11 lot (band lot) south of the Music Building at no charge. Please see the parking attendant.
Visitor parking on TTU campus

Speaker Bios

Oct. 8
Dr. René Saldaña, Jr. is an associate professor of Language, Diversity, and Literacy Studies in the College of Education. He currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the LDLS program. Dr. Saldaña is the author of several books for children and young adults: The Jumping TreeThe Whole Sky Full of Stars, the bilingual Mickey Rangel mystery series, and the bilingual picture book Dale, Dale, DaleUna fiesta de números / Hit It, Hit It, Hit ItA Fiesta of Numbers. His research looks at the use of culturally relevant literature in the largely underrepresented classrooms as a way to improve children's reading abilities.

Dr. Cordelia Barrera is an associate professor of Latinx and Borderlands Literatures in the Department of English. Barrera specializes in Latina/o literatures and the American Southwest as well as U.S border theory, third space feminist theory, popular culture, and film. She writes movie reviews for the borderlands journal LareDOS, and has published articles and reviews in The Quarterly Review of Film and Video and the Journal of Popular Culture.

Oct. 15
Nigel Torres is a doctoral student in the Counselor Education Department at Texas Tech University. Mr. Torres is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) in the state of Texas and co-owner and founder of The Practice: Healing Body, Mind, and Soul and has provided mental health services for twenty years. His article, titled "Cultural Awareness: Understanding Curanderismo," is published in American Counseling Association’s VISTAS Online. Mr. Torres plans on writing his doctoral dissertation on his apprenticeship/training (known as desarrollo) in Curanderismo.

Oct. 22
Dr. Idoia Elola is a Professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures where she teaches Spanish, Applied Linguistics and Second Language Studies. She is also the academic director of the Spanish program for the Texas Tech University campus in Seville, Spain. Recently, she was recognized as a Texas Tech Integrated Scholar and was an Office of International Affairs Global Vision Award winner for the Donald R. Haragan Study Abroad Award in 2017.

Reader's Guide from the NEA Big Read

Bless Me, Ultima flyer

Additional Reading

Caminero-Santangelo, Marta. (2010). "Jason's Indian": Mexican Americans and the Denial of Indigenous Ethnicity in Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 45(2). (available through Interlibrary Loan).

Dick, Bruce, and Silvio Sirias, eds. Conversations with Rudolfo Anaya. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.

Lamadrid, Enrique R. (1985). Myth as the Cognitive Process of Popular Culture in Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima: The Dialects of Knowledge. Hispania. 68(3): 496-501.

Naveira, Isabel Gil. (2017). The Use of Liminality in the Destruction of Women's Roles: Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima. Odisea: Revista de estudios ingleses.

Rodriguez, María Elena. (1993). Mary Dilley, Curandera: A Modern South Texas Folk Healer. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Pabón, Melissa. (2007). The Representation of Curanderismo in Selected Mexican American Works. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education.

Torres, Nigel and Janet Froeschle Hicks. (2016). Cultural Awareness: Understanding Curanderismo. VISTAS Online.

Trotter, Robert T. (2001). Curanderismo: A Picture of Mexican-American Folk Healing. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 7(2): 129-131.

Valentín, B. (2010). In Our Own Voices: Latino/a Renditions of Theology (e-book). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Points to Ponder while Reading—Discussion Questions

Questions for Discussion taken from the NEA Big Read Selection edition (1999):

  1. How many rite-of-passage novels can you name? How does Bless Me, Ultima fall into this category? How does it compare to Huck's experiences in Huckleberry Finn?
  2. Bless Me, Ultima has been compared to James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. How does the Catholic religion influence these novels? Do you have to be Catholic to understand the novel?
  3. How does myth play a role in the novel? Anaya wrote the myth of the Golden Carp, which the young, innocent children in the novel believe as truth. How does he use elements of world mythology?
  4. There are many symbols in the novel: the juniper tree, the bridge, the river, the sun and moon, the owl. The juniper tree may simply symbolize the renewal of life, but it can also be the tree of life. Do you have to understand the use of such symbols in world mythology to understand the novel?
  5. Anaya uses numbers in a symbolic way. The number three appears in many ways. How does the use of numbers affect the story?
  6. What does Antonio's mother mean when she says her son will lose his innocence? Is this novel about loss of innocence?
  7. What role do the characters that surround Antonio play in his development? Do the sun and moon, the llano and river, dreams, the Golden Carp, and La Llorona play a role?
  8. Is the novel a romance, a fantasy, or a realistic portrayal?
  9. What is the role of dreams in the novel? Why does Antonio seem to slip out of dreams and into reality? Is childhood full of dreams?
  10. Does the time of the novel, the end of World War II, affect the story?
  11. How is the owl connected to Ultima?
  12. Will Antonio become a priest? Or will he become a writer?
  13. Readers love the humor in the Christmas play. What is the function of the play? Why is it placed before the death of Narciso?
  14. Anaya tests Antonio many ways. What is the most crucial test Antonio must pass?
  15. When Ultima walks out the door the needs in the form of a cross fall to the ground. Why did the needles fall?
  16. Folklore and myths are part of our inheritance as humans. They have conveyed human interpretations of life for thousands of years. Do they play a role in life today?
  17.  Antonio is the son of the Mares (sea) and the Luna (moon) families. How does Anaya use this mixture to form Antonio's character? What are the tensions involved?
  18. Do you think most 7- to 9-year-old children have the questions, insights, and conflicts you find in Antonio?
  19. Are Antonio's experiences in dealing with death harmful to him or do they make him a stronger character?
  20. Are the strongest characters male or female?
  21. The landscape is very important in the novel. Did it seem real to you? Can you describe your own landscape?
  22. What sensory emotions are raised in the novel? For example, how do food and eating help create the ambience of the story?
  23. What is the purpose of Antonio's brothers in the novel?
  24. What is magic? Does it interest you? Do you see elements of magic in your own life?
  25. Antonio is free to roam and explore the river. Does this freedom benefit or hinder his ability to cope with life?
  26. In shamanism certain animals guide or give power to the person. How is this possible?
  27. The river has a "presence," that is, it is animated by spirit. Is nature alive? How have you experienced this?

Video

Sponsor

This Reading Group is sponsored in part by the Humanities Center at Texas Tech. The 2018–2019 theme is "Play."

Texas Tech Humanities Center Banner

About Rudolfo Anaya and the book

Rudolfo Anaya was born October 30, 1937 and for the first 14 years of his life lived in Santa Rosa, NM, barely over 200 miles northwest of Lubbock, TX. His father was from a family of vaqueros who lived and worked as cowboys and sheepherders on the Llano Estacado, as depicted in Bless Me, Ultima. Summarily his mother’s family, as depicted in the book, were farmers from Porto De Luna, NM. In 1952 he moved along with his family to Albuquerque where he attended public schools. After graduating from Albuquerque High School in 1958, Anaya attended the University of New Mexico and graduated with a BA degree in English and American Literature in 1963. 

 That same year he began writing Bless Me, Ultima while teaching English in Albuquerque public schools. It took him until 1972 to find a publisher for the book as no main-line publisher wanted to publish a book written in both English and Spanish with its coming of age story of a young Chicano boy from a small village in New Mexico. Much of the content in the book portrays the role of the supernatural and religion in the lives of New Mexicans. When asked to expand on this, Anaya stated, “The supernatural and ordinary, everyday worlds live side by side. There are many rituals, ceremonies, and religious practices still practiced in New Mexico that touch on the supernatural."

The sales of Bless Me, Ultima grew slowly but when a major publisher decided to publish it, sales of Bless Me, Ultima grew rapidly. Bless Me, Ultima remains in print and is regularly taught in middle-school, high school, and college classes. Due to the book's popularity, Anaya joined the English faculty at the University of New Mexico, a position he held until his retirement in 1992. Anaya still lives in Albuquerque and writes every day. Besides novels, he has written several collections of short stories, several children’s books, some poetry and several plays.