The Big Read Explores Hispanic Culture with Bless Me Ultima

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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The Big Read Explores Hispanic Culture with Bless Me Ultima

Posted: 09/04/2009
YWCA, in partnership with the Knox County Public Library, invites East Tennessee to join in The Big Read, a community reading program featuring Rudolfo Anaya's novel Bless Me, Ultima. This year, the celebration coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15, 2009. 
The Big Read kicks off on September 16, 12 p.m. on downtown Knoxville's Market Square with presentations from Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Knox County Public Library Director Larry Frank, and YWCA Executive Director Marigail Mullin, along with dance performances from the Knoxville Argentine Tango Society and Mexican folkloric Grupo Santa Cruz,. Giveaways include 100 copies of Bless Me, Ultima in English, 25 copies in Spanish, Reader's Guides in both English and Spanish, Audio Guides and Big Read schedules. 
Throughout the month-long program, Bless Me, Ulitma themed events will be offered throughout the region, including evening owl walks, lectures and guided tours featuring local herbs, Hispanic Trivia quizzes, a concert by critically acclaimed Mexican-American singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez, lectures on "Culture and Identity: The Hispanic Experience" and 'Ultima as a Symbol of Feminine Spiritual and Cultural Conciliation," and a Mayor's Panel Discussion where interested readers can catch a thought-provoking book discussion led by a panel of community leaders, moderated by Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. There will also be discussion groups located across the region, and, at Knox County Public Library locations, special Hispanic-themed children's storytimes and visits with owls from the Knoxville Zoo.

Special this year are new, online features including a Spanish-English glossary, a pronunciation podcast, and the debut of an online book club called "Blog the Book." "Blog the Book" will divide Bless Me, Ultima into an easy-to-follow reading schedule, with online guides, locals who are reading the book for the first time, who will post their thoughts, questions, and reactions in an open, online forum. The public is invited to read along with them, and join in the conversation.

For more information about The Big Read in East Tennessee, call Sara Baker at 865-523-6126 or go to For more information about The Big Read nationally please visit

The Big Read is made possible through community partnerships: Alcoa City Schools, Blount County Public Library, Blount County Schools, Blount County Education Initiative, Carpe Librum Booksellers, Carson-Newman College, Challenge Entertainment, City of Knoxville, City of Oak Ridge, Community Television of Knoxville, East Tennessee Foundation, East Tennessee History Center, Friends of Literacy, Friends of the Knox County Public Library, Grupo Santa Cruz, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, HOLA Hora Latina, Ijams Nature Center, Knox County, Knox County Schools, Knoxville Argentine Tango Society, Knoxville's Community Development Corporation, Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville News Sentinel, Knoxville Zoo, Market Square Farmer's Market, Maryville City Schools, Maryville College, Oak Ridge Public Library, Pellissippi State Technical Community College, University of Tennessee, WUOT 91.9 FM.


Bless Me, Ultima is the story of a young boy's loss of innocence and approach to maturity as he struggles to reconcile the often conflicting influences of family, community and religion. The book deals with tradition and education, faith and doubt, and the nature of good and evil. And if he doesn't find an absolute truth in his search, he still comes to believe with his father that "sometimes it takes a lifetime to acquire understanding, because in the end understanding simply means having a sympathy for people." Replete with rich multicultural traditions, surreal and prophetic dreams, herbal lore and a haunting landscape, it's a magical and mystical coming-of-age story set in New Mexico during World War II - a story with roots in Anaya's own life, that went on to become the bestselling Chicano novel of all time.


The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts - both new and established - bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit