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Take This Man

Take This Man

A Memoir

  • reading group guide
From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy’s turbulent childhood growing up with 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 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.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439170878 | 
  • June 2014
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Growing Up a Native American Imposter: A Boy's Search for Identity

Raised to believe in his Native American heritage, author Brando Skyhorse's world is turned upside down with the revolving door of stepfathers and the earth shattering truth of his Mexican ethnicity.

Read an Excerpt

Take This Man

I was three years old when my father abandoned me and my mother in my grandmother’s house atop a crooked hill on Portia Street in a Los Angeles neighborhood called Echo Park. My mother, Maria Teresa, a Mexican who wanted to be an American Indian, transformed me into Brando Skyhorse, a full-blooded American Indian brave. I became the son of Paul Skyhorse Johnson, an American Indian activist incarcerated for armed robbery who my mother met through the mail. She became Running Deer... see more
Take This Man


My grandmother’s breath. Racing across my baby shoulders like western clouds. I’m propped against the sofa between my grandmother’s thick varicose calves dressed just in toddler shorts, like an oversized stuffed bear. A phalanx of whirring plastic fans don’t cool the soupy air as much as shuffle it in a circle around us.

“Shhh,” Grandma says, and blows on my hot neck, rustling the pouty tips of my shoulder-length hair off my back. Some... see more

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. Discuss the cultural identity issues 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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