In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rudolfo Anaya

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Biographies
  • Autobiography
  • Interviews

American Literature Rudolfo Anaya
Robert Con Davis-Undiano
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0043


Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (b. 30 October 1937) was born in Pastura and grew up in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. In 1952, his family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in 1956 he graduated from Albuquerque High School. Three experiences from his childhood years profoundly influenced his writing—inspiration from his literate mother and vaquero (cowboy) father, the beauty and diversity of New Mexico culture and landscape, and, in 1954, a swimming accident that broke his back and was referenced in his novel Tortuga (Anaya 1979, cited under Novels). He earned three degrees from the University of New Mexico—in 1963, a BA in English; in 1968, a master’s in English; and in 1972, a master’s in counseling. In 1966, he married Patricia Lawless, from 1963 to 1970 he taught in the Albuquerque public schools, and in 1971 became the University of Albuquerque’s director of counseling. From 1974 to 1993, he taught English, creative writing, and Chicano literature at the University of New Mexico, and over those teaching years he wrote fiction, poetry, essays, and drama. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the American Book Award (1980), the prestigious National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Notable New Mexican Award (2007), and the Robert Kirsch Award (2011). The New Mexico setting has helped define his work and figures even in such volumes as A Chicano in China (1986). His masterpiece, Bless Me, Ultima (see Anaya 1994, cited under Novels; originally published in 1972), established many themes that would inform later work—indigenous influences on US culture, spirituality, the significance of land to community, the Chicano movement, and reconciling modern culture with traditional values. A book focused on Mexican American traditions, the clash of traditional and modern culture, and crises of conscience, Bless Me, Ultima was the first “Chicano” (Mexican American) novel to reach a national audience. Subsequent novels and short-story collections were also well received, especially Heart of Aztlán (1976), Tortuga (1979), The Silence of the Llano (1982), and Alburquerque (see Anaya 2006, cited under Novels; originally published in 1992). His detective series with private investigator Sonny Baca includes Zia Summer (see Anaya 2008a, cited under Novels; originally published in 1995), Rio Grande Fall (see Anaya 2008b, cited under Novels; originally published in 1996), Shaman Winter (see Anaya 2009, cited under Novels; originally published in 1999), and Jemez Spring (Anaya 2005, cited under Novels). His later works, more introspective and philosophical, include The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories (Anaya 2006, cited under Collected Works), Randy Lopez Goes Home (Anaya 2011, cited under Novels), Billy the Kid and Other Plays (Anaya 2011, cited under Collected Works), The Old Man’s Love Story (Anaya 2013, cited under Novels), and The Sorrows of Young Alfonso (Anaya 2016, cited under Novels).

Primary Works

Anaya is an unusual writer in that he has worked across five genres: the novel, the short story, drama, poetry, and essays.

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