Gustavo Arellano, who writes the “Ask a Mexican” column for the OC Weekly, came to Pomona Saturday afternoon to talk about “Bless Me, Ultima,” the Rudolfo Anaya novel that everyone in Pomona is asked to read as part of an NEA-funded program, the Pomona Big Read.
Calling it “an amazing book,” Arellano told an audience of 50 in the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center that he first encountered it in English class in Anaheim and was won over — first by its profanity (“That was the first time I had ever seen curse words in a book”) and then by its power. He said the novel, about an immigrant boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II and torn between his mother’s desire that he become a priest and his father’s that he become a laborer, is “as American a novel as you’ll find.”
During the Q&A, nobody asked about “Ultima.” Instead, they wanted to know about his column. He said he gets 50 to 60 questions a week and has a backlog of several hundred, enough to keep him going six years if no one ever again asked one.
“People are just fascinated by Mexicans,” he said with a smile. Aren’t we, though?
I hope to write about the various city-reads efforts (Pomona, Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga) in print this week or next. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta get back to “Ultima.”