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Brando Skyhorse Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
My Name Is Iris (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Publication Order of Anthologies

We Wear the Mask(2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Brando Skyhorse is an American popularly known for his memoir Take This Man. Skyhorse’s first novel, “The Madonnas of Echo Park,” achieved notable acclaim, including the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was also selected for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. Likewise, “Take This Man: A Memoir” earned recognition as an Amazon Best Book of the Month and was honored by Kirkus Reviews as one of the standout nonfiction books of the year.
Additionally, Skyhorse has collaborated in co-editing an anthology titled “We Wear the Mask: 15 Authentic Tales of Identity Concealment in the United States.” He has also received prestigious fellowships from the Ucross Foundation and the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference. 2014-2015, he served as the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-In-Washington at George Washington University. Currently, Skyhorse holds the Associate Professor of English position at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Brando Skyhorse’s memoir, “Take This Man,” skillfully recounts his tumultuous and unpredictable upbringing in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood. The heart of the narrative revolves around Skyhorse’s complex relationship with his mother, who led their life in an extraordinary and bewildering manner.

His mother, Maria Teresa, displayed a greedy nature, quickly veering between fits of violence and dramatic shifts in her identity and personality. She had a penchant for reshaping the truth as a pastime. Early on, Skyhorse set out on a quest to unravel the mystery of his biological father, whom he later discovered was the man his mother cryptically referred to as “Uncle Candy” in the few remaining photographs of him.

Maria never officially divorced Candido Ulloa, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, but she used the threat of deportation to ensure he remained absent from her son’s life. Candido and Maria had a turbulent relationship, as was customary for her, and she permanently drove him away when Brando was just three years old. Shortly after that, Maria reinvented herself as a Native American named Running Deer, and her son, Brando Ulloa, became Brando Skyhorse, the son of a Native-American chief.
Although Brando’s grandmother didn’t share her daughter’s flair for invention, she enjoyed a good story. She played along with each new version of reality that emerged whenever Maria married a new man. In this intricate literary memoir, Skyhorse grapples with portraying these fabrications as accurately as possible and helping readers navigate the convoluted narrative.

The book’s early pages are filled with sentimental and occasionally disturbing accounts of Maria’s unconventional parenting choices, which were far from the norm for raising a young child. She frequently used personal ads to seek potential partners, took Brando on cross-country trips to meet new families, and even advertised him for adoption.

Brando endured it all as a child without complaint as long as his mother and grandmother continued to shower him with love, hugs, books, and attention.

Brando received countless conflicting messages throughout his childhood, but like most children, he absorbed whatever love he could find. Amidst Maria’s mood swings and a parade of inconsistent and questionable “father” figures, the young Brando portrayed in these pages developed into a resilient survivor who learned to keep his thoughts to himself and his ears open.

Skyhorse candidly reflects on how navigating the chaos in his household left him deeply scarred. He writes with vivid emotion while maintaining control of the narrative’s central focus: his quest to find his father and, perhaps, discover an alternate reality he never had the chance to experience. Notably, he refrains from vilifying his mother, opting for a compassionate and balanced portrayal, even including excerpts from her unpublished memoir to offer her perspective.

This book delves into Skyhorse’s journey to reunite with his father and grapple with the legacy left by his mother. It underscores the paramount importance of stability in a child’s life. The polished storytelling of his endlessly captivating, dysfunctional family makes the memoir highly engaging. Written with elements of a movie—sometimes a dark comedy, at other times a drama—this deeply personal story is rich in detail. Such masterful storytelling can only be the work of a meticulous and skillful writer.

The Madonnas of Echo Park” serves as both a sweeping depiction of a Los Angeles neighborhood and an intimate exploration of the individuals striving to shed their ethnic identity in pursuit of the American dream. Each chapter introduces a distinct voice—sometimes poetic, at times fierce or comical. We encounter characters like Hector, a day laborer who scours the streets for employment and becomes a witness to a murder that challenges his morality in the face of his undocumented status. There’s also his ex-wife Felicia, who narrowly survives a shooting and lands a cleaning job in a Hollywood Hills residence as desolate as its owner. The narrative includes young Aurora, who embarks on a journey through her gentrified childhood neighborhood to unearth her history and find her place in the land that all Mexican-Americans aspire to reclaim.

At its core, the book delves into the theme of identity. It explores whether it’s possible to break free from one’s cultural identity or if individuals are confined to a space shaped by ethnicity. It also examines the constraints of gender roles imposed by culture and the expectations set by family. Each character narrating the story is on a quest to find answers to these questions and navigate their lives within the parameters of their circumstances.

The narrative also underscores the interconnectedness of communities. Unbeknownst to the characters, they are all linked to one another, whether through chance encounters, family bonds, troubled relationships, or acts of violence. While there may not be a clear moral message, it’s crucial to acknowledge that one cannot completely sever ties with one’s roots, no matter how hard they try.

Throughout the story, there are subtle hints of mysticism—a sighting of the Virgin Mary, a recurring presence known as “the Lord” in the neighborhood, and an ever-present flower. These elements transform the narrative into a tale not solely about religion but about faith and discovering it in one’s way. Faith can manifest in various forms, from diligent labor to cynicism, but the novel underscores the importance of having something greater than oneself to believe in. Essentially, “The Madonnas of Echo Park” is a beautifully crafted work. While it holds significant importance in contemporary Latin American literature, it also reflects on life itself.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Brando Skyhorse

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