Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park (Simon & Schuster, 2010), received the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. Take This Man: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, 2014) was an Amazon Best Book of the Month selection and named by Kirkus Reviews as one the Best Nonfiction Books of the year. Skyhorse has also co-edited an anthology, We Wear The Mask: 15 Stories About Passing in America (Beacon Press, 2017). He has been awarded fellowships at Ucross Foundation and the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference. Skyhorse is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Brando is available for speaking engagements, book clubs, and college First Year Experience visits. To arrange a speaking engagement, contact Dawn Stuart at Books in Common.
Why do people pass? Fifteen writers reveal their experiences with passing.
We Wear the For some, “passing” means opportunity, access, or safety. Others don’t will- fully pass but are “passed” in specifc situations by someone else. We Wear the Mask, edited by Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page, is an illuminating and timely anthology that examines the complex reality of passing in America.
Skyhorse, a Mexican American, writes about how his mother passed him as an American Indian before he learned who he really is. Page shares how her white mother didn’t tell friends about her black ex-husband or that her children were, in fact, biracial.
The anthology includes writing from Gabrielle Bellot, who shares the disquieting truths of passing as a woman after coming out as trans, and MG Lord, who passes for heterosexual after her lesbian lover is killed. Patrick Rosal writes of how he "accidentally" passes as a waiter at the National Book Awards ceremony, and Rafa Zakaria agonizes over her Muslim American identity while traveling through domestic and international airports. Other writers include Trey Ellis, Marc Fitten, Susan Golomb, Margo Jefferson, Achy Obejas, Clarence Page, Sergio Troncoso, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and Teresa Wiltz.
Brando Skyhorse is the author of Take This Man: A Memoir and a novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, which received the PEN/Hemingway Award. He is associate professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Lisa Page directs the creative writing program at George Washington Univer- sity where she is assistant professor of English. Her work has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, the Crisis, Playboy, and the Washington Post Book World.
When he was three years old, Brando Kelly Ulloa was abandoned by his Mexican father. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, saw no reason for her son to live his life as a Mexican just because he started out as one. The life of “Brando Skyhorse,” the American Indian 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. There Brando and his mother live with his acerbic grandmother and a rotating cast of surrogate fathers. It will be over thirty years before Brando begins to untangle the truth of his own past, when a surprise discovery online leads him to his biological father at last.
From an acclaimed, prize-winning novelist celebrated for his “indelible storytelling” (O, The Oprah Magazine), this extraordinary literary memoir captures a son’s single-minded search for a father wherever he can find one, and is destined to become a classic.
Praise for Take This Man
— A June 2014 Indie Next Pick
“A wickedly compelling account of a dysfunctional childhood. By turns funny and wrenching, the narrative is an unforgettable tour de force of memory, love and imagination.”
— Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“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.”
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“A beautiful, compassionate, but also hilarious and hair-raising tale of one boy’s life, the lies and truths his mother told, and the damage and the magic she created. Brando Skyhorse is an irresistible writer with an incredible story.”
— Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle
“Take This Man is as astonishing a memoir as I’ve ever read. Brando Skyhorse’s beautifully-told tale of his truly bizarre childhood and his search for a father moved me in a way that few books have. I will never forget Skyhorse’s charismatic mother and grandmother, nor the tortured triangle the three of them formed. I was reminded at times of Geoffrey Wolff’s The Duke of Deception, and also of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer. But I guarantee that this is a family story unlike any you’ve read before. It deserves to become a classic.”
— Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club
“Take This Man reaches beyond the bounds of my imagination. We use the word survivor with disgracefully casual ease. But this writer truly survived being held hostage, raised by wolves. Brando’s grandmother and mother are terrifying and mesmerizing. Their cruelty to their biographer was audacious, calculated and thrilling to read. Stories molested him and nourished him. And it is with relief that I read in Take This Man flashes of Brando’s bitterness and heat, sane fury directed at the Scheherazades who toyed with him. Whatever else they did to him, when he escaped he knew how to tell a story, and this is one hell of story.”
— Geoffrey Wolff, author of The Duke of Deception
“Brando Skyhorse’s unputdownable Take This Man is one of the most moving and mesmerizing memoirs I’ve ever read. I’m still reeling. Its familial dysfunction rivals The Glass Castle, the poetry of the language echoes This Boy’s Life, and the bravery in Skyhorse’s search for answers, for a family, conjures up Wild. Yet Skyhorse’s memoir is wholly and uniquely his own. As his mother’s mantra went: ‘At least it’s never boring.’ And it never is. This is a miraculous memoir from a spectacularly talented writer.”
— Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire
“The details of Brando Skyhorse’s life are as outlandish and attention-grabbing as his name. Imagine the kind of mother who advertises you for adoption in the back of a magazine and then denies it to your face, or the kind of stepfather who calls his prison ‘Arizona State,’ as if discussing his alma mater. Take This Man is a funny and harrowing and touching portrait of the abyss in families between what we know we should do and how our hearts lead us to behave.”
— Jim Shepard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway and You Think That’s Bad
“This gorgeous, wrenching, ultimately uplifting book is a testament to the large and generous heart of its author. Brando Skyhorse has made art out of the chaos of his own extraordinary family history, and, in so doing, has raised the bar, not only for memoirists, but for us all.”
— Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Still Writing
“Take This Man is a grand story full of fantastic characters--characters whom the author brings vividly to life because they ARE his life. Skyhorses’s shifting identity creates an intense quest for meaning, a kind of whodunit memoir that explores the sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, often absurd, and always fascinating childhood that the author, no matter his lineage, has no choice but to claim as his own. Pour a shot of Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, add a jigger of Moehringer’s The Tender Bar, throw in a splash of Rivera’s Family Installments, and this is what you get: a heady cocktail of memories with a twist.”
— Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men
“Brando Skyhorse brings a chronically invisible community to sizzling, beguiling life . . . With this debut novel, Skyhorse has earned comparison to Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz and Sandra Cisneros . . . In The Madonnas of Echo Park, Skyhorse claims the disparate elements of his life and spins them into gold.”
— The Oregonian
[DO YOU WANT TO KEEP ALL THESE LINKS? I can add, but won't bother if not needed.]
An interview with Brando Skyhorse [video]
The Madonnas of Echo Park is perfect for your book club!
Read an excerpt.
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Author letter to readers.
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Praise for The Madonnas of Echo Park
“The hard, bitter grit of life in Echo Park, especially for women, is made quite wonderful by warmth and bright color, humor and compassion; in its keenly felt insight into the human condition, Echo Park is the world: this is who we are, like it or not. Altogether a terrific book by a highly accomplished new author — where has he been?”
—Peter Matthiessen, National Book Award-winning author of Shadow Country and The Snow Leopard
“Brando Skyhorse writes with great compassion and wit (and a touch of magic) about the lives of people who are often treated as if they are invisible. The stories that make up this novel weave together to create a complex and vivid portrait of a Los Angeles we seldom see in literature or film. The Madonnas of Echo Park is a memorable literary debut.”
—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
“In its depiction of what amounts to a parallel socialuniverse The Madonnas of Echo Park provides a master-class in non-linear narrative, written with imaginative generosity and emotional precision, poignant, brutal and refreshingly unsentimental. Brando Skyhorse has what can’t be faked: talent. His book is an understated triumph.”
—Glen Duncan, author of Death of an Ordinary Man and I, Lucifer
“In this gorgeous and suspenseful book the admirably talented Brando Skyhorse takes his readers to a kingdom that he has made very much his own, Echo Park, California. I loved reading about his richly imagined characters, both Mexican and American, and how their lives intersect with our much more familiar versions of Los Angeles.”
—Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street & Eva Moves the Furniture
“A beautiful sweep of Los Angeles, told through multiple viewpoints that showcase Brando Skyhorse’s breadth. The Madonnas of Echo Park is a terrific journey, where characters re-emerge unexpectedly until by the end, the book has created a full and vivid world.”
—Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures
“In this insightful book, Brando Skyhorse reveals himself to be a trenchantand passionate observer of the forgotten underclasses of Los Angeles. He’s fashioned a desperate La Ronde for Echo Park and a requiem for the ’80s.”
—Glen David Gold, author of Sunnyside and Carter Beats the Devil
“[A] most entertaining first novel. Skyhorse certainly nails the people and the spirit of the very vibrant historical neighborhood of Echo Park. It is more than just a part of old Los Angeles, it is a character in its own right that you want to truly befriend by the end of the book. The Hispanic men and women who live, love and die in those streets are made palpable and rendered genuine thanks to the deep consideration that the author has for them. Nothing sounds false or forced in these stories that are funny and heartbreaking, surprising and affecting. It is a familiar truth all the while becoming an original evolution of people and place, each of them always moving to the music that makes their dreams.”
—Marie du Vaure, Vroman’s, Pasadena, CA
“Reminds me of Olive Kitteridge/Chris Cleave . . . In teading The Madonnas of Echo Park it’s like each chapter could stand alone as a short story; however, each chapter fleshes out more of the storyline which reminded me of Little Bee. The book was truly amazing.”
—Susan Barthold, Barnes and Noble, Jenkintown, PA
“What can I say? S&S has discovered another truly gifted writer. I really, really, loved this book. The lives of the unseen people, bus drivers, cleaning ladies, waiters etc., are shown to be as colorful, meaningful, and intense as the most famous among us. I loved the way this author could take a simple enough subject, such as looking for a lost dog, and make it interesting and real! The image of the little Madonnas, singing on that street corner will remain with me for some time. These people became real for me and I cared deeply about what happened to each of them. I became lost in Echo Park, longing for a place I’d never been, the sights, sounds, smells . . . This book will definitely become a book club pick for us, as there is no lack of discussion material. Thank you, Wendy. A five star rating for you and the book!!!!!!!”
—Margaret Holdman, Borders, St. Louis
“With spare tight prose and spare tight pieces, Brando Skyhorse takes LA’s Echo Park and raises it to the level of, say, Lethem’s Brooklyn or Proulx’s West. With a bit of Marquez’s magical realism and a lot of heart, Skyhorse presents us with a side of Mexican American life often ignored. Diverse voices wind together and apart to good effect, with a bittersweet close.”
—Jenn Northington, Breathe Books, Baltimore, MD
“I just finished The Madonnas of Echo Park and wanted to write to you as soon as I collected my thoughts— Not so easy since it resonated on so many levels. It is truly a beautiful book and Skyhorse captured so much that is unique about LA better than I have ever seen done before. He got the smog-filtered light, the smells that mix desert and ocean, and the particular gravity of a place where everybody comes from somewhere else, no matter how long they’ve been here. I loved how each story added tiny layers to the previous stories as you saw them flitting across in the background. So many books have painted a great picture of 30’s LA that people still carry around in their heads. And I’ve read some good ones of contemporary LA, but mostly Westside-type affluence. The Madonnas of Echo Park really shows the huge percentage of LA life that people have no idea about but which really is a major contributor to this city’s “feel.” It’s that mix of dreams and disasters that create the LA that people feel but don’t understand why they feel it, if that makes sense . . . How can such a sunny place be so dark?? And btw, who knew that Morrissey was such an icon in LA’s Mexican subculture?”
—Kristine Williams, Barnes and Noble, Encino
“The Madonnas of Echo Park is an extraordinary book. I was captured by the writing — ease with storytelling, lively lyricism, and unforgettable characters. I can’t recall a novel that captures the spirit of a place so well. Through his attention to generational stories, Skyhorse strikes a perfect balance between nostalgia and looking forward. I finished reading it a couple of days ago, but I have just gone back and reread the first couple of chapters. It is so interesting to read, now that I know how their lives intersect, seeing all of the background characters, knowing now that they have captivating stories of their own. The book, it seems to me, is unique in its structure, the community it describes, but mostly it is unique in its quality. And what characters! Aurora Esperanza, Rosa, and Duchess are unforgettable. The bus driver, the hustler, the lady who speaks to the Virgin Mary, poor Mrs. Calhoun, Hector, Juan, and the many many others who live in the neighborhood (live in the book) are each drawn with such care and attention.”
—Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC
“What a wonderful book. It brings to the forefront a people who are virtually unnoticed by society, something I never realized. More than that, this book truly shows how intertwined our lives really are by leading us through a journey of everyday lives and revealing how entangled we truly are with each other, even complete strangers. I literally could not put it down.”
—Lisa Hartman, Barnes and Noble, Willow Grove, PA
“I absolutely loved The Madonnas of Echo Park! I was teary-eyed . . . The stories ravel together like a string of kites, each one intertwining and tangling with the next, until they have become one, aggregated mass of colors . . . lives, histories, relationships that somehow all make sense. I love how everything comes together . . . .vignettes that make sense once the characters’ paths cross — completing the mystery and filling in the holes that leave the reader feeling both reconciled and even a bit addled at the connections and relationships. Beautifully written . . . .and even more beautifully woven. I’m looking forward to his next book.”
—Guinevere Platt, Vroman’s, & Communications Manager, SCIBA
“Thank you so much for sending me The Madonnas of Echo Park. What a powerfully well written book. Each chapter connects to another making the characters so vibrant and real. Skyhorse shows Mexican-American life so colorful and intense that you feel that you are right there in Echo Park. What an important book this is! Thanks again.”
—Jennyfer Davis, Barnes and Noble, Long Beach, CA
ISBN-13: XXXXXXXXXXXXX [NEED NEW LINKS BELOW]
Contact the author at brandoskyhorse at gmail dot com