Genre: Chicano Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the past – a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world… and will nurture the birth of his soul.”
Review: I am a bit torn when it comes to this book. While I definitely appreciated Rudolfo Anaya’s elegant and illustrative writing style, it took me almost a month to finish get through the 262 pages that comprise Bless Me, Ultima. I actually had to read Bless Me, Ultima simultaneously with another book because it was so hard for me to get completely drawn into the story. I think part of the problem was that I don’t really enjoy reading religious fiction. While Bless Me, Ultima is not solely a religious book, it can certainly be considered a religious coming of age novel. I would never argue with someone who promotes this book on the strength of Anaya’s writing alone, but as far as plot goes, I found that the book dragged.
Reason for Ban/Challenge: Bless Me, Ultima has been challenged in the past due to adult language, some violence, and several sexual references. Several schools have also cited irreverence toward God, anti-Catholic angles, and pagan content as justification for bans. Overall, however, Antonio shows a deep reverence for God and looks to God to understand the complexities in his life. This book is, after all, a coming of age tale, so it is completely understandable that Antonio also questions God (for example, he cannot understand how the evil Tenorio can get away with murdering family friend Narciso without punishment). The adult language and sexual references were minimal and I believe the overall pious nature of the book easily outweighs any “immoral” content.