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A Right Place at the Wrong Times   Leave a comment

Even though my own name belies the family stories I’ve heard about Echo Park,
I admit I judged Brando Skyhorse by his. I didn’t expect him to know much, if
anything, about Echo Lake, Chavez Ravine, and Elyssian Park near downtown Los
Angeles. Lo siento. His novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, proves that he knows
the geography well and the community, too. Although not written in an especially
unique format, he creates a cohesive portrait of Mexican Americans in a time when
it is easy to overlook the fact that one word is an adjective and the other a noun.

Skyhorse relies on different narrators, all of whom are Latino, to relate varied
perspectives of a series of coincidently overlapping events. In their quest to wake
up in the American Dream, they recount nightmarish experiences.

Aurora Esperanza is the character about whom everything is connected. The story
weaves in and out of her childhood in the Echo Park area (when its residents were
primarily Spanish-speaking families) to the gentrification now underway. The grown
-up Aurora acknowledges that she has trouble recognizing her old haunts. Skyhorse
plays and replays the theme of being cast out of one once-distained area into an-
other with numerous references to Chavez Ravine. Families were forced to leave
their homes there to make room for Dodger Stadium.

I know the verdant Echo Park that sits like an island in a sea of automobile traffic,
and Skyhorse doesn’t just describe a neighborhood, he portrays its heart and soul.

The Madonnas of Echo Park
Three and a half Bookmarks
Free Press, 2010
199 pages

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Posted December 29, 2011 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

Tagged with , , ,

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