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The Madonnas of Echo Park

The Madonnas of Echo Park

A Novel

  • reading group guide
  • freshman reading
The Madonnas of Echo Park is both a grand mural of a Los Angeles neighborhood and an intimate glimpse into the lives of the men and women who struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream. Each chapter summons a different voice—poetic, fierce, comic. We meet Hector, a day laborer who trolls the streets for work and witnesses a murder that pits his morality against his illegal status; his ex-wife Felicia, who narrowly survives a shooting and lands a cleaning job in a Hollywood Hills house as desolate as its owner; and young Aurora, who journeys through her now gentrified childhood neighborhood to discover her own history and her place in the land that all Mexican-Americans dream of, “the land that belongs to us again.”

Reminiscent of Luis Alberto Urrea and Dinaw Mengestu, The Madonnas of Echo Park is a brilliant and genuinely fresh view of American life.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439170847 | 
  • February 2011
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Brando Skyhorse delves into The Madonnas of Echo Park

A new voice in ethnic literature, Brando Skyhorse's story of a Mexican-American community is now in paperback.

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The Madonnas of Echo Park 2

The Blossoms of Los Feliz
Spring is here and it makes my joints ache. All those jacaranda blossoms on the walk outside to sweep up. Jacaranda trees thrive in Los Angeles, like blondes and Mexicans. There’s no getting away from them, not even in my dreams. They’ve haunted me from childhood, when I believed a jacaranda tree would save me. Can you imagine such a thing, a tree saving a life? A silly girl thought so once.

I’d been sent to my grandmother’s home in Chavez Ravine by a... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Madonnas of Echo Park 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.

Introduction

The Madonnas of Echo Park follows the lives of Mexican Americans in the shifting landscape of Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood, highlighting the intersections and collisions of American and Mexican culture. Felicia, a housekeeper, and her daughter Aurora weave in and out of each others’ lives, struggling to find a common ground on which to relate. Aurora’s estranged father Hector finds himself a witness to a murder, and must choose between deportation and complicity. Aurora’s former classmates Duchess and Angie, steeped in American culture, drift apart as they choose different paths in life, each looking for a place to fit in. Felicia’s aging mother Beatriz, who gave Felicia up as a baby, is torn between guilt and nostalgia, and her own driving self-interest. As their lives tangle together and bounce apart, each is given the opportunity to decide what is truly important to them.

Questions for Discussion

1. The first chapter of see more

About the Author

Brando Skyhorse
Photograph © Eric van den Brulle

Brando Skyhorse

Brando Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, received the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. He has been awarded fellowships at Ucross and Can Serrat, Spain. 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.

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