SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An author known as the father of Chicano literature left behind a bilingual children’s book after his 2020 death, telling a story about Christmas in the American Southwest.
The tale from Rudolfo Anaya, who died from natural causes at 82, is being published posthumously for the holiday season by Museum of New Mexico Press with parallel text in Spanish and English. The story extends a cycle of Anaya’s illustrated children’s books with a playful cast of animal characters, centered around a tiny, inquisitive owl named Ollie Tecolote.
The book was crafted by Anaya painstakingly in his waning year as an invitation to children to explore literature in English and Spanish, said Enrique Lamadrid, a publisher and retired chairman of the Spanish teaching department at the University of New Mexico. Lamadrid collaborated closely with Anaya in his final years to translate “Owl in a Straw Hat” series into Spanish.
“We crafted that really, really, really carefully so that kids would be comfortable,” said Lamadrid, who first befriended Anaya in the 1970s. “You start with love. You have to fall in love with your second language in order to be any good with it at all.”
Anaya achieved lasting literary fame and influence with the novel “Bless Me, Ultima” in 1972 about a boy’s coming of age in post-World War II New Mexico under the guidance of a traditional spiritual healer. The book became a movie — and an opera.