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Bless Me, Ultima

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  30,112 ratings  ·  2,351 reviews
Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. 'We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,' says Antonio's mother. 'It is not the way of our people,' agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio's family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ult ...more
Paperback, 290 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1972)
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Tracy At our house, we see long books as a good thing - if the story is great, you don't want it to end. It'd like a tv show with 1 hour episodes versus 1/2…moreAt our house, we see long books as a good thing - if the story is great, you don't want it to end. It'd like a tv show with 1 hour episodes versus 1/2 hour episodes. If you love the show - you want the whole hour. So in reality - longer books give you more time to live in the world the author is creating for you. Escape to this other world and enjoy the experience. And if you are not sure what to read next - this is a great place to ask! Tell us what you enjoy and we will give you suggestions. Good books are one of life's greatest gifts.(less)
Eliza Pitter While not mysterious, I believe Bless Me, Ultima does have an interesting origin story. According to a Nobel Speech made by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (an…moreWhile not mysterious, I believe Bless Me, Ultima does have an interesting origin story. According to a Nobel Speech made by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (an author and lover of magical realism), magical realism's roots in Latin America was brought about through tales filled with originality used as a coping mechanism by the oppressed Latin American people during European colonization.

Long story short: Anaya likely wrote in this genre to embrace his hispanic heritage.
(Magical realism = use of magical elements considered normal in the work.)(less)

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Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  30,112 ratings  ·  2,351 reviews

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Apr 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ficcion
As posted in []:

As a Hispanic, I cannot believe that I hadn't read *Bless Me, Ultima* earlier. Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. Anaya is a superb storyteller.

As it is in the Hispanic culture, elders are supposed to be taken care of whether or not they are family. So, in comes Ultima, an elderly curandera. A curandera is a faith healer, not a witch. However, some people may not see the difference between the two. The proper and respectful term to Ul
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: banned-book, fiction
Actual rating: 2.5 stars.

This is a hard review to write. I read Bless Me, Ultima because it is frequently challenged, often banned, sometimes even burned. I read it because it has been banished from Tucson classrooms and school libraries. I read it because I live in a majority Mexican-American community in a part of Arizona that until relatively recently was still part of the state of Sonora, Mexico. And I read it because many readers have praised it.

Anaya wrote his novel in 1972. Copies were co
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Being a native of New Mexico, I always heard references to this book growing up. I saw it in libraries, on recommended reading lists but never picked it up. I finally decided to read it after being transplanted to CA and was a little homesick and wanted to read something that would bring me closer to home. This is one of the books I reread every now and then because it brings my own childhood closer to me and reminds me of the sense of self in a small community like the one in Bless Me Ultima.
Richard Derus
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a one city, one book choice for Austin, Texas, where I lived at the time. It was my second reading of the title at that time, and I was as entranced the second time as I was the first. What a joyous ride through the wonderful magical world of Hispanic New Mexico.

I would recommend this to any reader of the magical realism school, or any fan of Hispanic literature, or anyone who needs a memorable escape from the real world.
How do I begin writing a review for this book?  I guess I'll start with a story of how I came to read "Bless Me Ultima" and why I ended up reading it again in recent considerations (2013).

I read "Bless Me Ultima" for the first time in my AP Literature and Composition class. My teacher at the time had a list of books we could choose to do reports on and this was one of the choices that jumped out at me.  It also surprised me that it was banned from many curriculum in different schools and distric
Joy D
“From my mother I had learned that man is of the earth, that his clay feet are part of the ground that nourishes him, and that it is this inextricable mixture that gives man his measure of safety and security….But from my father and Ultima I had learned that the greater immortality is in the freedom of man, and that freedom is best nourished by the noble expanse of land and air and pure, white sky. I dreaded to think of a time when I could not walk upon the llano and feel like the eagle that flo ...more
may ➹
this was quite frankly the most boring book I’ve ever had to read for school
Mystical, magical coming of age. . . .losing people you love and dealing with religion. Having to sort the many baskets of belief that are brought to your life by the people who surround you. People who control you with love, who have authority over you in society, people you give your power to in exchange for friendship, for place, for things. . . .they all believe different things and there is a pivotal moment when you realize they all want you to join THEIR team (the RIGHT team)! And there ar ...more
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks-a-z
Post listen review

If you like really poetic and flowery language to describe the most mundane of details then this is the book for you. This book has murder, revenge, redemption, witchcraft and school bullies in it yet it was able to pretty much bore me the entire time.

Now I know that some people really enjoy a poetic book and I think that in some stories it works very well but in my opinion this is not one of them.

The story centers around a boy named Antonio who is struggling with faith and fa
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, favorites
Bless Me, Ultima is set in a small village on the edge of the plains (the llano) of New Mexico during the 1940s. It is a coming of age novel from the Hispanic perspective. Six year old Antonio must grapple with many conflicts as he strives to grow into a man in a multi-faith, multi-cultural setting.

Antonio has been born into a Catholic family and looks forward to his first Communion, but he has many questions about his natal faith. Paganism is native to this area of the Southwest and Antonio fin
Apr 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful story written by a Mexican-American who is widely read, Rudolfo Anaya. The book won the Premio Quinto Sol, national Chicano literary award. It is the story of six-year-old Antonio Marez who bonds with Ultima, a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under the guidance of this wise woman, Antonio examines family ties that bind him and tear him apart and discovers himself in the magical past.

Antonio is strongly influenced by the church, a curandera named Ultima, witch
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magical-realism
Five stars are not enough for this timeless classic! I would give it one hundred stars if I could! Bless Me Ultima is one of those tales, part coming of age story, part magical, that I could read time and time again and never grow tired of it. It never fails to touch me deep in my soul.

Edited to add: I've read this book now 4 times, once a decade since first discovering. I still love it as much as I did the first time I read it and I always discover new things.

In the meantime I found this inter
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An encounter with a good book is occasionally as mystical as the story within it. As I prepared to move to New Mexico, several people told me I had to read Bless Me, Ultima. I had never heard of it.

Then, during the Great Yard Sale, it happened. I spread my books out over several tables and crates, saying goodbye to hundreds of comrades who had been with me for so long. And there, on the top of a box that I could have sworn were all cookbooks I was letting go of, I saw Rudolfo Anaya's novel.

Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: selection of our local book club
Rudolfo Anaya reconstructs our understanding of Chicano culture. From the outset he insists on colloquialisms and idioms voiced in untranslated Spanish. This linguistic choice is a subtle indicator of a growing disconnect between the non-English speaking older generation and their English language schooled children.

An almost medieval Catholicism pervades the story. Six-year-old Antonio is torn by the opposing ambitions of his parents. His mother believes he is marked for the priesthood. She ins
Ed Pattison
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be one of those books where the ending was stronger than the beginning. But it could also be argued that the narrator, Tony matured and thus the depth of his storytelling developed as well.

A quick trip to New Mexico prompted me to dust-off this shelf sitter. Glad I had it on hand. There's nothing like being able to mesh your reading with your vacation. Can't say I experienced Tony's culture, but I was certainly able to place myself in the setting and love that child character mo
Shelly L
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Are you a good witch or a bad witch ... which? This beautiful book is about rejecting the binaries we cling to, and opening up to the nuanced mystery that is life. The argument for nuance begins with a bang. When Lupito shoots the sheriff, Antonio's father and Narciso both argue for a more complex, open-ended empathy — or at least due process — for him. But a swift and definitive vigilante justice prevails. We like easy, eye for an eye equations where murderers get what they deserve. But this is ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the story of a young, first-generation Mexican boy in the mid-1940s. As he navigates school yard bullies and parental dreams, his mother’s Catholic faith and the ancient religious beliefs of his ancestors, curses, witches, adult vengeance, death and the universal questions of goodness, suffering and God, he begins the process of moving into adulthood. I think I would have enjoyed this more had I read it as a young adolescent.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
"From my mother I had learned that man is of the earth, that his clay feet are part of the ground that nourishes him, and that this is the inextricable mixture that gives man his measure of safety and security. Because man plants in the earth he believes in the miracle of birth, and he provides a home for his family, and he builds a church to preserve his faith and the soul that is bound to his flesh, his clay. But from my father and Ultima I had learned that the greater immortality is in the fr ...more
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
This is a beautifully written coming of age story that I listened to as an unabridged audiobook. I don’t typically seek out this sort of book but the blurbage from the SYNC program caught my eye last summer and, well, it was free and I'm all about the free.

I regret reading many a book but my only regret here is that it took me a full year to actually take the time to listen to Bless Me, Ultima. It tells the story of a young boy named Antonio (Tony) whose family takes in an elder named Ultima, as
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
Bless Me, Ultima is the story of a young boy’s coming-of-age within a cultural tapestry that includes Spanish, Mexican, and Native American influences, and in which many of the major cultural forces conflict with one another. The young boy, Antonio Márez, must navigate a number of conflicts—between farmers and cowboys, Spanish and indigenous peoples, and English-speaking and Spanish-speaking peoples—that collectively structured the cultural life in rural New Mexico during the 1940s. The novel is ...more
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I read “Bless me, Utltima” as part of the Big Read going on in my city. As a naturalist, I enjoyed the natural thread that runs through the book.

The novel's story line takes place in New Mexico just after World War II and follows the maturation of grade-schooler Antonio, the youngest son in the Márez family. As Tony ages, he witnesses several tragic events and is forced to deal with complicated moral issues. He also must choose between the agrarian, devout heritage of his mother and the largely
I was incredibly excited to read this book as it was purported to be a classic novel depicting Chicano culture on PBS Great American Reads. While I enjoyed this book, I constantly felt like I was missing something and it wasn't until I read the Q&A with the author at the end of the book that I understood a few, but not all, of the things I missed. There was so much beauty in this novel and there were parts that were incredible. But there were so many pieces I wanted to understand in more detail. ...more
Jun 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any one who has ever questioned their faith
Wow! What a stunningly beautiful book! I hope to reread this someday just for the descriptions of the natural world. Ultima may now be one of my most favorite fictional characters...oh and how I wish I knew more about her! In many ways she reminded me of my own grandmother. I love the way she listened to the earth and I loved her for her quiet strength.

Antonio reminded me so much of myself and the questions I began asking a young age, the questions I still ask. I loved Antonio for his awe in th
Sue K H
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this quite a bit. I never would have been interested in reading it if it weren't for The Great American Read on PBS. On the show, a young Latino woman talked about how important it was for her reading something that mirrored her experience as a Latino growing up in New Mexico. I like reading about other cultures so I decided to give it a try. I enjoyed it. It was pretty deep for a young adult book.
A coming-of-age story comparable to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in its exploration of complex themes through a six- or seven-year-old’s eyes. However, unlike TKaM, Bless Me, Ultima feels almost postmodernistically unfinished, without the arc of a completed cycle which has been executed beautifully in similar books.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
(2.5) While I was interested in the culture of the Mexican-American family of this book, it was too meandering for me to stay with once other books were ready for pick-up. Also, it's from the POV of a 7-year old child at first but it is written in a formal and adult voice, and so felt disconnected from his actual experience.
This book is the first of a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Rudolfo Anaya, set in rural New Mexico in the 1940's, where Anaya grew up. Antonio Juan Marez y Luna is 6 years old and just starting school when the novel opens. His three older brothers have gone to fight in World War II; Antonio and his two older sisters live with their parents in a small village, on the edge of the open plains. Also living with them is Ultima, a cuandera (midwife, healer, herbalist, and shaman).
Julio Bonilla
I read this my sophomore year of high school, late 90s. Those were the days!


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Rudolfo Anaya lives and breathes the landscape of the Southwest. It is a powerful force, full of magic and myth, integral to his writings. Anaya, however, is a native Hispanic fascinated by cultural crossings unique to the Southwest, a combination of oldSpain and New Spain, of Mexico with Mesoamerica and the anglicizing forces of the twentieth century. Rudolfo Anaya is widely acclaimed as the foun ...more

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“I made strength from everything that had happened to me, so that in the end even the final tragedy could not defeat me. And that is what Ultima tried to teach me, that the tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart. --Antonio” 54 likes
“It is because good is always stronger than evil. Always remember that, Antonio. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant.” 52 likes
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