Rudolfo Anaya Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How do the magical elements in Rudolfo Anaya’s fiction—visions, dreams, paranormal phenomena, allegorical characters—contribute to his themes? Do they help or hurt his fiction?

Anaya’s work is clearly interested in the relationship between personal identity and culture. What does Anaya see as the relationship between the individual and the individual’s cultural and ethnic community?

Frequently Anaya’s characters set off on quests, most often a metaphor for spiritual searching. For what do Anaya’s characters search?

How is Anaya’s vision of the contemporary spiritual crisis, the drift into materialism and selfishness, influenced by his own upbringing in and later abandonment of Catholicism? In what way is Anaya a religious writer?

What does Anaya suggest about the role of the contemporary ethnic writer when it comes to questions of cultural and community identity?

Anaya is known for uplifting, affirmative endings. Do you find his endings convincing? Are they intended to be realistic or inspirational?

Anaya’s fiction shows a deep and profound love of the land. How does Anaya react to the late twentieth century disregard for the sacramental holiness of the earth?

Trace the influence of and evidence of Anaya’s love of the tradition of oral storytelling.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rudolfo Anaya has written short stories, children’s literature, essays, plays, allegories, screenplays, and poetry, including a mock-heroic epic poem in barrio street slang. His early short stories are collected in The Silence of the Llano (1982). His children’s stories include The Farolitos of Christmas: A New Mexico Christmas Story (1987) and The Santero’s Miracle: A Bilingual Story (2004). Anaya’s essay output largely results from his many lectures. A Chicano in China (1986) recounts a visit to China in 1984. The Anaya Reader (1995) contains representative works, including his play Who Killed Don José? (pr. 1987).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The “godfather” of Chicano literature and the “foremost” Chicano novelist of the twentieth century, Rudolfo Anaya gained recognition in his mythopoetic field as the late 1960’s Chicano movement gained strength. He battled publisher prejudices against bilingual works, turning to small Chicano presses such as Quinto Sol before going mainstream with Warner Press in 1993. His first novel, Bless Me, Ultima, won the Premio Quinto Sol literary award in 1972, putting Anaya at the center of Chicano issues. Publication of Heart of Aztlán made him a force in Chicano letters and the term “Aztlán” (the legendary Aztec homeland and symbol of Chicano unity) important in literature. Anaya’s Sonny Baca detective stories placed him in the Magical Realism movement, and the successes of mentored students (including Denise Chavez) mark his far-reaching community influence.

Anaya has received numerous awards for achievements in Chicano literature, including El Fuego Nuevo Award (1995), De Colores Hispanic Literature Award (2000), the National Medal of Arts in Literature (2001), the Wallace Stegner Award (2001), and the Champions of Change Award (2002). Alburquerque won the International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN Club) Center West Award for fiction (1992). The 1995 illustrated edition of The Farolitos of Christmas, a warm tale of family love, received the Southwest Texas State University Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, and Anaya received the award again in 2000 for Elegy on the Death of César Chávez (2000), a work in verse celebrating that Chicano national hero. At least six universities have awarded Anaya honorary doctorates. While Anaya speaks to the long history of the Mexican American community in the southwestern United States, he also provides others a Chicano worldview in a wide variety of literary forms, converging the mestizo identity in the varied cultures that infuse the New Mexican community. He revives an American vision of assimilation that encompasses the best of mixed heritages.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Baeza, Abelardo. Man of Aztlan: A Biography of Rudolfo Anaya. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 2001. Concise biography offers a fresh look at the man behind the classic novels. Includes bibliographical references.

Clements, William. “The Way to Individuation in Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima.” Midwest Quarterly 23 (Winter, 1982). Applies the theories of Carl Jung to the novel.

Dasenbrock, Reed. “Forms of Biculturalism in Southwestern Literature: The Work of Rudolfo Anaya and Leslie Marmon Silko.” Genre 21 (Fall, 1988). Focuses on the treatment of storytelling.

Dick, Bruce, and Silvio Sirias, eds. Conversations with Rudolfo Anaya. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998. Collection of interviews with the author is designed to present Anaya’s point of view and philosophy. Appropriate for students and general readers. Includes index.

Elias, Edward. “Tortuga: A Novel of Archetypal Structure.” The Bilingual Review/La Revista Bilingüe 9 (January, 1982). Employs the archetypal approach to reveal Anaya’s art.

Fernández Olmos, Margarite. Rudolfo A. Anaya: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Provides biographical material and discusses Anaya’s literary influences as well as the themes,...

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