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Bless Me, Ultima
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bless Me, Ultima makes it quite explicit that morals are subjective and not absolute. Catholicism is treated reverently, but its long-held and sometimes contradictory beliefs are constantly questioned. At the same time, pagan magic is depicted more as a Native American passion for and connection to the earth and its elements than as witchcraft.
What's the story?
Six-year-old Antonio is the son of farmer parents in rural New Mexico during World War II. His mother is passionate about the Catholic Church, and wants him to be a priest; his father is connected spiritually to the Ilano, the great plains of their state. A friend of the family is Ultima, a midwife and practitioner of magical healing and spells. Although greatly respected by Antonio and his parents, Ultima encourages his constant questions on the meaning of life and religion. Narciso, the town drunk, also seems to possess a mystical connection to the supernatural. A feud erupts between the mean-spirited Tenorio and several characters that ends in violence and death. Antonio comes of age very quickly in terms of moral conviction.
Is it any good?
This marvelous book sold more than 300,000 copies essentially on word-of-mouth recommendation after it was published in 1972, and is now often required reading in school. It would be a mistake to call it an "ethnic" novel -- one of interest primarily to Latino readers. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, it has universal appeal as a story that brings to life a time, place, and customs chiefly from the point of view of a child. BLESS ME, ULTIMA is both lyrical and realistic, has many positive messages, and deals with extremely weighty and important issues.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences and similarities found in our prevailing ideas of spirituality and religion. How much is your own identity influenced by your family and cultural upbringing?
Why do you think Bless Me, Ultima is often required reading in school?
Why is understanding so crucial between people, and what's the difference between tolerance and acceptance?
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