The young boy at the center of the story, Antonio Márez y Luna, is based upon Anaya and his experiences growing up in after World War II in the American Southwest.
With the guidance of the elderly healer Última, Antonio works to understand the changing world, discovers more about his Mexican-American heritage and seeks to determine his destiny.
Since its publication in 1972, the book has enlightened readers with rich questions about life and spirituality, wrapped in folk tales and curanderismo.
However, "Bless Me, Última" is often embroiled in debates about censorship in public libraries and school curriculum.
The so-called "banned book" was involved in Arizona's recent attempt to limit literature "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" and was one of the top 10 most-challenged books of 2013, according to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom.
Two theatrical adaptations in production this month shine a light on the novel's versatility and potential to bring the story to new audiences.
Why does "Bless Me, Ultima" continue to be relevant? Is there a need for more literature reflecting the Southwest's indigenous roots and the Mexican American experience?
- Jose Ruben De Leon, director of the Classic Theatre's production of "Bless Me, Ultima" in San Antonio
- Tony Zancanella, executive director of Opera Southwest in New Mexico
- Emma Hernandez, coordinator of the Latino Collection for the San Antonio Public Library
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