Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Freebie: The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

Congratulations to Wayne Allen, winner of last week's Friday Freebie, the package of three titles from Fantagraphics Books: Castle Waiting, Vol. 2 by Linda Medley, Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson and Special Exits by Joyce Farmer.

Last week's trivia question asked readers which recent or upcoming Fantagraphics title they were most looking forward to getting their inky little paws on.  According to my unscientific poll, the top pick was, by far, Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring.  Other popular must-reads included Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s by Greg Sadowski, Yeah! by Peter Bagge, The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi, and Buz Sawyer: The War in the Pacific by Roy Crane.  But, almost to a person, the response to the question was "Do I have to choose?  I want all of them!"

This week's book giveaway is The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse.  The novel, first published last year, is a critically-acclaimed story about the Mexican-American experience told in a chorus of voices and shifting viewpoints, similar to the movie Crash.  Critics have compared it to work by Junot Diaz, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie and Chang Rae-Lee.  Here's the publisher's blurb about the plot:
When a dozen or so girls and mothers gather on an Echo Park street corner to act out a scene from a Madonna music video, they find themselves caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting.  In the aftermath, Aurora Esperanza grows distant from her mother, Felicia, who as a housekeeper in the Hollywood Hills establishes a unique relationship with a detached housewife.

The Esperanzas’ shifting lives connect with those of various members of their neighborhood.  A day laborer trolls the streets for work with men half his age and witnesses a murder that pits his morality against his illegal status; a religious hypocrite gets her comeuppance when she meets the Virgin Mary at a bus stop on Sunset Boulevard; a typical bus route turns violent when cultures and egos collide in the night, with devastating results; and Aurora goes on a journey through her gentrified childhood neighborhood in a quest to discover her own history and her place in the land that all Mexican Americans dream of, "the land that belongs to us again."
Skyhorse shows off his lyrical flair from the very beginning of the first chapter:
     We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours. Those who'd never been here before could at last see the Promised Land in the darkness; those who'd been deported and come back, only a shadow of that promise. Before the sun rises on this famished desert, stretching from the fiercest undertow in the Pacific to the steepest flint-tipped crest in the San Gabriel Mountains, the temperature drops to an icy chill, the border disappears, and in a finger snap of a blink of an eye, we are running, carried on the breath of a morning frost into hot kitchens to cook your food, waltzing across miles of tile floor to clean your houses, settling like dew on shaggy front lawns to cut your grass. We run into this American dream with a determination to shed everything we know and love that weighs us down if we have any hope of survival. This is how we learn to navigate the terrain.
     I measure the land not by what I have but by what I have lost, because the more you lose, the more American you can become.
If you'd like a chance at winning a new paperback copy of the novel, all you have to do is answer this question:

According to the book's official website, in his next book--a memoir--Skyhorse describes his life growing up.  How many stepfathers did he have?

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on May 5--at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on May 6.

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