Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Books of Interest by Writers of Color--Rudolfo Anaya

Rudolfo Anaya needs no introduction, since if a person knows only one Latino writer, Anaya will probably be that writer. He is justly famous for his first book, the seminal Bless Me, Ultima, but that was just the beginning of a long series of novels, plays, poetry, short fiction, essays, children's books, and anthologies that Anaya has published. He may be defined by that classic first book, but only because people forget that his second novel, The Heart of Aztlàn, won the American Book Award, that his third novel, Tortuga, was acclaimed as even finer than the first two, and that much of his other work is as lyrical and mystical as Bless Me, Ultima was.

In addition to the mystical, spiritual elements which are always important in his work, Anaya also has written some of the best description and analysis of the difficulties that face Chicano and Mexican families when they move into American cities and face the poverty, discrimination, and crime they find there. More than any other author, he brings these two disparate elements together--the indigenous mysticism and the realistic portrayal of urban life--successfully melding them in his work.

Order Randy Lopez here

In Randy Lopez Goes Home: A Novel (University of Oklahoma Press), Anaya reverses that progression his characters take from the rural to the urban. Randy Lopez long ago left his hometown village in northern New Mexico to seek and find success in the urban Anglo world. Along the way, though, he's lost something intangible, and he returns to Agua Bendita to try to find what's missing in his life. Like all of Anaya's heroes, Randy is on a spiritual quest.

Anaya is considered one of the principal founders of the Chicano literature movement. Not only the author of
30+ books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s and 10+ anthologies, he is the recipient of a long list of awards, including two NEA Fellowships, a W. K. Kellogg Fellowship, The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award, the Mexican Medal of Friendship, Award for Achievement in Chicano Literature, the National Medal of Arts, and five honorary doctorates. He won the PEN Center USA West Award for Alburquerque.

In addition, he has worked from his earliest days to open doors for other Chicano/Latino authors. He has edited a number of anthologies showcasing the work of younger Chicano authors and founded Rio Grande Writers Association, an organization to support and encourage Chicano writers and those who publish and teach their work. Anaya has mentored many newer writers to this day and continues to do so.

In all of Anaya's work, he is concerned with Chicano mysticism and mythology, which combines pre-Christian beliefs with elements of traditional Catholicism, and with the relationship of humans to nature. He also focuses on the clash of cultures that occurs in New Mexico between the dominant Anglo society and the Mexican and Indian peoples the Anglos found when they took possession of this land. 

Once again, Anaya brings his lush and lyrical style and his characteristic myth-making and mysticism and concern with the sacredness of nature to bear on a story of a man seeking the spiritual connection he's lost with the help of a female curandera figure and of spirits and naguals. Anaya is a cultural and literary treasure, and we are lucky to have him telling us stories of the heart and of the spirit.

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