Take This Man

A Memoir

Take This Man

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.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439170892 | 
  • June 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Take This Man includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Brando Skyhorse. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In this riveting, heartfelt memoir, Brando Skyhorse shares the story of his turbulent childhood in Echo Park, Los Angeles, with a rotating cast of surrogate fathers and a Mexican mother who refashioned herself and her son as Native Americans. With poignant honesty, he recalls his struggle to reconcile his dual cultural identities, reconnecting with his biological father after more than three decades, and how he finally untangled the truth of his past.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Share your thoughts about Maria as a person and as a mother. Were you sympathetic toward her at all? Why or why not? What were her maternal strengths and weaknesses?
2. What motivated Maria to fabricate a Native American identity for herself and Brando? How did the phrase she repeated (“At least it’s never boring”) shed light on her extreme, often outrageous behavior? Why was Maria able to get away with the lies and stories she told?
3. see more

Articles About This Book

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The Madonnas of Echo Park

About the Author

Brando Skyhorse
Photograph © Eric van den Brulle

Brando Skyhorse

Brando Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Skyhorse is a graduate of Stanford University and the MFA Writers’ Workshop program at UC Irvine. He is the 2014 Jenny McKean Moore Writer-In-Washington at George Washington University.