Named one of Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
One of NBC News’s 10 Best Latino Books of 2014
“A West Coast version of Augusten Burroughs’s Running With Scissors...A funny, shocking, generous-hearted book” (Entertainment Weekly) about a boy, his five stepfathers, and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.
When he was three years old, Brando Kelly Ulloa was abandoned by his immigrant father. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, saw no reason for her son to live as a Mexican American just because he was born one. With the help of Maria’s ruthless imagination and a hastily penned jailhouse correspondence, the life of “Brando Skyhorse,” the Native American son of an incarcerated political activist, was about to begin.
Through a series of letters to Paul Skyhorse Johnson, a stranger in prison for armed robbery, Maria reinvents herself and her young son as American Indians in the colorful Mexican-American neighborhood of Echo Park, California, where Brando and his mother live with his acerbic grandmother and a rotating cast of surrogate fathers. It will be thirty years before Brando begins to untangle the truth, when a surprise discovery leads him to his biological father at last.
From this PEN/Hemingway Award–winning novelist comes an extraordinary literary memoir capturing a mother-son story unlike any other and a boy’s single-minded search for a father, wherever he can find one.
Skyhorse's (The Madonnas of Echo Park) vivid and idiosyncratic family memoir traces his ongoing struggle to search for an identity and fatherly guidance amidst his entanglement in his mother's chaotic lifestyle. Spanning Skyhorse's life, the book focuses primarily on his childhood growing up Echo Park, Los Angeles, from the late 1970s through the early '90s.Skyhorse's mother split with his biological father when he was three and proceeded to shuffle through a slough of unreliable husbands (including alcoholics; ex-cons who get arrested at Disneyland; and deadbeats who steal from the boy's piggy bank) whom Skyhorse was expected to adopt immediately as fathers (and sometimes to help her seek them out) though most of them didn't stick around for very long. The only constants at home were his critical, "mythmaking," phone-sex operator mother (who tells her son he is Indian, though the family is Mexican, and changes his name) and brash, larger-than-life grandmother. As he grows older, Skyhorse tries to detach from his argumentative family, first by leaving for college at Stanford and later with his girlfriend to live in New York City. Skyhorse's upbringing has had lasting effects on his romantic relationships and mental health, but he manages to write about his experiences and those who shaped them with grace. By turns darkly comical and moving, this powerful memoir of a family in flux will stick with readers well after they've put it down.