February 24, 2009

Bless Me, Ultima removed

UC Merced students discuss removal of Chicano book

District took 'Bless Me, Ultima' off sophomore reading listThe Newman-Crows Landing Board of Education voted in early February to remove Rudolfo A. Anaya's award-winning novel "Bless Me, Ultima" from the sophomore required reading list at Orestimba High School.

The removal stemmed from a parent complaint about the anti-Catholic tone of the book and its sexually explicit scenes. The school board and superintendent focused on the number of curse words in the book when contemplating a ban.
And:Anaya's novel had been part of the sophomore honors curriculum at the school for more than a decade. The advanced literature students read more than 60 novels and plays before graduation, Quittmeyer said.

"Honestly, out of all the books we ever read, I never thought 'Bless me, Ultima' would ever be banned," Perez, who is now a sophomore at UC Merced, said.

Written by Anaya in 1972, "Bless Me, Ultima" is set in New Mexico and profiles a Latino boy maturing, asking questions concerning evil, justice and the nature of God, and trying to reconcile American Indian religion with traditional Roman Catholicism. The boy turns often to Ultima, a caregiver of sorts, for help as he grows.

The book was spotlighted on former First Lady Laura Bush's must-read list, and is also the literature selection for this year's state high school academic decathlon competition.
Comment:  So everyone from Laura Bush to the academic decathlon competition supports the book, and it hasn't harmed anyone in the ten years it's been on the list. But the school board has removed it from the reading list because one parent complained. How irrational can you get?

Bless Me, Ultima was one of three books I was "required" to read the summer before attending college. (The other two were Plato's Republic and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.) I don't remember any of the books well.

I presume Bless Me, Ultima was pretty good. Who knows? Perhaps the Indian aspects influenced me to undertake my Native-oriented quest some 14 years later.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

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