PEN/Hemingway winner Brando Skyhorse returns with an adept American allegory.
On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, Brando Skyhorse discusses My Name Is Iris (Avid Reader Press, Aug. 1), the haunting story of a Latine woman’s attempt at reinvention in a dystopic near-future America. This sharp, satirical sophomore novel is packed with indelible imagery, including a mysterious wall that only Iris and her 9-year-old daughter can see.
Skyhorse is the author of the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award–winning novel The Madonnas of Echo Park and the memoir Take This Man, a Kirkus best nonfiction book of 2014. He is a co-editor of the anthology We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America (2017) and an associate professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Here’s a bit from Kirkus’ review of My Name Is Iris: “The title of Skyhorse’s second novel is a lie: The real name of the narrator, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, is In-S. But ever since a schoolteacher struggled to pronounce that correctly, she’s been Iris, which is just one in a series of microaggressions she’s spent a lifetime shrugging off. She’s led a life that in the early chapters appears to have the makings of a standard-issue novel of American family dysfunction: She’s middle-class, newly separated, and raising a 9-year-old daughter, Mel, in a new home in suburbia. But curious signs around town start promoting a ‘band’ that people are asked to wear on their wrists; one day a stone wall appears in her front yard, which only she and Mel can see. From there, Skyhorse spins an extended allegory not just around how much white America is eager to disenfranchise immigrants…but how immigrants often live in denial about the contempt they face.”
Skyhorse tells host Megan Labrise about the inspiration for My Name Is Iris, which involves his move to an old Indiana farmhouse in the summer of 2016. They discuss the terms dystopian and horror, in an attempt to differentiate the two; the influence of ’80s horror films and the Cold War on Generation X; how horror plots strive to undermine their characters’ safety; protagonist Iris’s worldview; the five primal fears; self-determination and identity; easter eggs for Stephen King fans; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
I’ll Tell You No Lies by Amanda McCrina (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ginny Off the Map by Caroline Hickey, illus. by Kelly Murphy (Christy Ottaviano Books)
Tabula Rasa: Volume 1 by John McPhee (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper/HarperCollins)
Also mentioned on this episode:
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
Half Moon Summer by Elaine Vickers
Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
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Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.