Novelist, short story writer and poet who is often known as the father of Chicano (Mexican-American) literature, Rudolfo Anaya was born on October 30, 1937, in Pastura, New Mexico, United States; the son of Martin (a laborer) and Rafaelita (Mares) Anaya.
Anaya received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of New Mexico in 1963, and a Master of Arts degree in English from the same university in 1968. From 1963 to 1970, Anaya was a public school teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1971 he became director of counseling at the University of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico, a post he held until 1973.
In the meantime, Anaya was developing his craft as a creative writer. His first novel, Bless Me, Ultima (1972), received wide critical praise, and has since become a classic of Hispanic American literature. It won the Premio Quinto Sol, the national Chicano literary award.
Anaya followed this success with two more novels. The first was Heart of Aztlan (1976), about a Chicano family that moves from a rural community to the city. Tortuga (1979), Anaya's third novel, concerns a young boy who must undergo therapy for his paralysis and wear a body cast. Taken together, these three novels make up a trilogy about Mexican-American life in the post-World War II era.
Anaya published another novel, The Legend of La Llorona in 1984. In the 1990s his main creative output consisted of four novels: Albuquerque (1992) in which a young boxer, Abran Gonzalez, embarks on a quest for his real father in Albuquerque. This novel won the PEN Center West Award for Fiction. Anaya followed this with the trilogy about detective Sonny Baca, Zia Summer (1995), Rio Grande Fall (1996), and Shaman Winter (1999).
Anaya has also published collections of short stories, The Silence of the Llano (1982) and My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande (1999). He has edited collections of poetry including Voces: An Anthology of Nuevo Mexicano Writers (1987), as well as writing several nonfiction books, including Lord of the Dawn: The Legend of Quetzacoatl (1987).
Anaya became associate professor of English at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, in 1974. He was appointed full professor in 1988, a position he still holds today.