Big Read Features Coming-of-Age Novel

Big Read Features Coming-of-Age Novel
The Pomona Big read features Rudolfo Anaya's novel Bless Me, Ultima.
Pomona will be 117 communities taking part in The Big Read.

Take a break from the iPods, smart phones and remote control! We're having a read-in!  

The Pomona Big Read will take place from Oct. 13 through Dec. 1 and features the coming-of-age novel Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya.

The kick-off event includes a reading by ¡Ask a Mexican! columnist Gustavo Arellano, who considers Bless Me, Ultima one of the formative books in his life. Arellano will also discuss his new book, which shares the name of his irreverent, nationally syndicated column, ¡Ask a Mexican!

Following the event, the Pomona Big Read will sponsor an opening reception for the Chicano/Latino artists featured in the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center art gallery exhibit Blurring the Line Atzlan 07. In addition, sign-ups for Bless Me, Ultima reading groups will take place, along with the distribution of free reading guides.

The kick-off will be Oct. 13 beginning at 5 p.m. at the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center, 300 W. Second St. in Pomonas Arts Colony.

The Pomona Big Read

Pomona is one of 117 communities across the nation taking part in the National Endowment for the Arts program, which aims to promote reading across the country in response to studies that indicated United States residents were reading drastically less literature than in the past.

Pomona's Big Read will include events for readers and nonreaders alike such as read-a-thons, film screenings, book discussions, contests, keynote addresses, performing arts presentations, and library and museum exhibits. Participants will receive free reading guides, and in some cases, free books.

Bless Me, Ultima is one of the most respected works of Chicano literature. Anaya tells the story of Antonio Luna Marez, a young boy who grapples with faith, identity and death as he comes of age in New Mexico.

“I think many people in our community can relate on a cultural level,” said Jonnie Owens, community relations program director for the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, who will oversee the use of the grant. “However, this novel expresses universal themes; so regardless of one's ethnicity this is a book to cherish. We can't wait for people to start reading.”  

Other events include a book signing and reception with Sam Quinones, author of True Tales of Another Mexico and Antonios Gun and Delfinos Dream…True Tales of Mexican Migration. The event will be at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center. For a full listing of events, visit:

The Big Read

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.

Through a series of events over six weeks, event organizers hope to encourage literary reading by asking communities to come together to read and discuss one book.

The NEA awarded Cal Poly Pomona $15,000 to carry-out a variety of community-based events this fall. Owens worked with the Pomona Unified School District, the Pomona Public Library, Historical Society of Pomona Valley, and with a variety of city officials and programs such as the Pomona Youth Advisory Committee, to coordinate six weeks of literature inspired events.

“The National Endowment for the Arts has given us a wonderful opportunity to support the reading of literature and unite people in our community,” said Owens. “By reading one book and participating in a variety of creative, cultural and fun events together, we can accomplish great things in the city.”

Modeled on successful city reads programs, the Big Read is meant to address the national decline in literary reading as documented in the NEA's 2004 landmark survey Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. The survey showed that less than half the American adult population now reads literature.

“By joining the Big Read, these cities and towns are showing that reading is necessary to the cultural, civic, even economic fabric of their communities. They understand the benefit of having people from different generations and walks of life reading and discussing a great book,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “Yes, this is about reading, but it's also about getting people to leave their homes and offices, unplug themselves for a few hours, and enjoy the pleasures of literature with their neighbors.”

For more information on The Big Read, visit