Anaya, Rudolfo

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn
  • Date of entry: Jun-28-1999
  • Last revised: Dec-14-2006


An adolescent boy enters a hospital for crippled children. His initiation into institutional life is painful. At first he wants nothing more than isolation and protection from patients he regards as "freaks." But as alliances form and the subtleties of ward life become clearer, he learns new methods of self-identification that have more to do with the peculiar structures of this confined world than with the world outside. Home becomes an increasingly remote reference point and the camaraderie of suffering in exile the dominant source of affirmation.

The story is a coming of age tale intensified by burdens beyond what adolescence is normally required to bear. A boy becomes not only a man, but in some sense an old man before his time, and returns to youth "outside" both scarred and gifted with what suffering has taught him, and with a new sense of who are his "brothers and sisters."


Anaya brings an unusual perspective to this tale of adolescent experience which incorporates cross-cultural elements unique to the American Southwest. Native American myth and lore provide a backdrop and a particular idea of healing that inform the way disease and health are described; the spiritual dimension is never obliterated by clinical detail. The boy's point of view is sensitively, sometimes exquisitely imagined. The book starts slowly; readers who expect more plot momentum may find it takes a few chapters to settle into its contemplative pace, but it is finally a rewarding and provocative journey that takes place across cultural, generational, and institutional boundaries.


Univ. of New Mexico Press

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