Burning Anaya

burning-booksDear God. The crazy, far-right protect-children-from-knowledge crowd are burning the classic Chicano novel, Bless Me, Ultima in Norwood, Colorado. Burning it with the help and support of a superintendent of schools Bob Conder who admits to never even having read it. The copies couldn’t be donated, he explained, because he didn’t want to risk them falling into the hands of a child.

Heavens no. If it fell into the hands of high school students, they might read it and learn how full of shit he is. What is he teaching them by burning school books, destroying novels? (Picture is a famous shot from a Nazi student rally where objectionable books were burned).

This is not some new marginal or semi-pornographic work that a radical teacher is trying to slip into her or his classroom, not that I’d support burning those either. The novel was written in 1972 and is probably among two of the first and best known Chicano novels. Its author, Rudolfo Anaya is both an award-winning author and a literature professor (okay, I think maybe he’s retired now) at the University of New Mexico and the book has national and international standing as exceptionally good American literature.

I’ve read this novel many times and been in two classes where it’s been taught — I can’t really see what the problem with teaching it to highschool or even junior highschool students would be. The book uses magical realism to tell the story of a soldier returning home from the second World War and the healing he finds in the memories of the herbal magic practiced by his mother and adopted grandmother.

There’s some profanity in the book, as befits a character who’s a young former soldier. The grounds for the book being destroyed? That it’s obscene and promotes paganism. More about the burning here.

I’ve sat here for a while trying to come to grips with what can be done. My suggestion is to buy a copy of the book, read it and then if you think its worthy, donate it to your local library.

5 thoughts on “Burning Anaya

  1. sparkle

    This sounds a lot like the same brand of multi-denominational conservatism that has condemned the Harry Potter series. Here’s an excerpt to one ‘Catholic’ site that promotes Rowling’s books as pro-paganism:
    Notice how utterly open-minded the URL looks to the casual observer?
    The interesting thing about Anaya’s book is that, despite Conder’s apparent idiocy, other conservative Christians realize its value – even Laura Bush put it on her ‘Top 10’ reading list for students.
    I saw this article as well, where Conder admitted he may have been ‘hasty’:
    Anyway, good luck with this battle … I’m afraid it’ll get worse before it gets better. Oh, and if our little A wants to read Bless Me, Ultima, I’ll be happy to read it to her.

  2. Annie

    Thanks for the extra links! The professor offering the $1000 is someone I know pretty well and am on a mailing list with. I’m going to see if he’s taking donations.
    In the larger scheme of things, this will probably result in more readers for Anaya. But the image of books being burned — any books but especially such a lovely one — makes me see red.
    The Harry Potter site is definitely my religion at its wackiest. :-/
    And as to wee A… if she wants to read Anaya, I’ll be happy to spell you. Or just sit and listen.

  3. mary

    I too see red when I hear of such foolishness!!! and I will be going out to purchase this book as soon as hubby gets paid this week… I am a wiccan and not that there is anything wrong with paganism in the first place but who is this man to to tell children that there is??? shouldn’t we be teaching our children acceptance of others? ::hmmph:: what a fool and to think these are the people who are teaching the next genreation… good goddess…
    Blessed Be all


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