02/08/13 — Wayne County Reads continues new season with discussion of book

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Wayne County Reads continues new season with discussion of book

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 8, 2013 1:46 PM

Book enthusiasts gathered inside Weil Auditorium Wednesday as the county's monthlong celebration of literacy continued with a discussion of the Wayne County Reads selection, "Bless Me, Ultima."

The discussion was led by Debra Curl, who specializes in language studies with the Wayne Community College Academic Skills Center.

Ms. Curl said she was glad to hear that "Bless Me, Ultima," was chosen. It was written by Mexican-American author Rudolfo Anaya.

She had previously read the book, in Spanish, and said the selection moved her to read it again, this time in English, which was the language used when Anaya first published it in 1972.

The semi-autobiographical novel follows protagonist Antonio through his coming of age, aided along by the midwife who assisted in his birth, Ultima.

Ms. Curl presented a video interview with Anaya to begin the discussion before leading those gathered in a breakdown of the book, which has been made into a film, due out Feb. 22.

She shared much of the history of the Chicano culture, which began as a political movement in the middle of the 20th century, and talked of how the narrative truly shows that, regardless of culture, creed or race, everyone experiences trials.

"What this novel actually does is show we all go through the same struggles," she said.

She framed the discussion around the growing Hispanic population in the United States, North Carolina and especially Wayne County, emphasizing a need for citizens to embrace all cultures and all people.

"It's here and it's now," she said of the Hispanic culture expressed throughout the novel.

She related the story of how Anaya struggled to get the book published on the east coast, but was embraced in the west, where the pride of Chicano culture got its start.

"That's where his first success was," she said, noting that as the literary reception of the novel grew, so did the public's acceptance of Mexican-American culture.

And, she said, its value as a bridge between American and Chicano culture hasn't waned.

"You can sit in the seat of your own home and be taken on a journey to another country in our own country,' she said. "It connects us to a different culture, a different country and a different world."

The Wayne County Reads monthlong celebration of literacy continues next week with a discussion of medicinal and native plants of the Carolinas, led by A.J. Bullard Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Moye Library at Mount Olive College.

A Brown Bag Book club discussion will be held Wednesday at noon at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Library and a panel discussion on "Bless Me, Ultima" will be held Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at Wayne County Public Library's Weil Auditorium. All events are free to attend.