A Mexican-American novelist’s wickedly compelling account of a dysfunctional childhood growing up “a full blooded American Indian brave” with five different fathers.
Skyhorse’s (The Madonnas of Echo Park, 2010) Mexican-born father left the family when the author was 3. Beautiful but prone to exaggeration, his mother, Maria, promptly renamed herself Running Deer and told her son that his father was an incarcerated Native American activist named Paul Skyhorse. While corresponding with her convict lover, the tempestuous Maria began bringing home a series of replacement fathers for her son who became “magicians, able to appear or disappear at will.” When the men finally left for good, each contributed to the hole in Skyhorse’s life that only “got bigger as [he] got older” and made him question his own ability to ever be a father himself. The stable but witheringly sharp-tongued center of the family home was Maria’s mother, June. While her daughter ran her own phone sex business and created the myths that substituted for Skyhorse’s true family history, June, a lesbian, “collect[ed] neighborhood stories and barter[ed] them” with everyone she knew. Guilt and anger kept the author emotionally tied to his mother even after he left home and Maria eventually died. He learned to accept himself as a Mexican “who happened to be raised as [his] mother’s kind of Indian,” but he struggled through broken relationships and bouts of depression. As he gathered up the shards of his life and began to make peace with all of his fathers, especially his biological one, Skyhorse realized the one truth that his storytelling mother and grandmother had known instinctively: that “stories [could] help you survive…and transform your life…from where you are into wherever you want to be.”
By turns funny and wrenching, the narrative is an unforgettable tour de force of memory, love and imagination.