Monday, July 28, 2014
"Take This Man" by Brando Skyhorse (2014)
The very first thing you need to know about this book is that the author is not an Indian, as his name would suggest. Neither is he Mexican, as his mother is. He is not really Filipino either, which is a shame because his real dad was. If you can wrap your mind around that then you are off to a good start in a very unique memoir that takes place in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles in the 1970’s and 80’s.
The author takes you on a journey through the dysfunctional world created by his Grandmother, who is Mexican; and his mother, a woman who has fashioned herself into an American-Indian. The problem is that she really believes this to be so. She has a child with a man from the Philippines. And then rejects him with the threat of having him deported because he is here illegally. And this is just the beginning.
Brando is raised within a whirlwind of new men his mother meets- 6 in all over the years- and each one becomes a possible father to the boy, only to fade away under the strain of dealing with his mother and grandmother. Or else they just leave on their own. These experiences with repeated hope and disappointment inform the man that Brando becomes.
This book will actually keep you engrossed, if only because you have never read a memoir like this before. There is no blatant physical or sexual abuse; just a succession of poor decisions by every adult in Brando’s young life. He is constantly on the verge of having the father he wants and needs so desperately, but never finds in the men his mother chooses.
I actually identified with the yo-yo type of existence the author lived due to my own mother’s long and severe illness. It’s hard to grow up when you are told one of your parents will be dead soon. And even harder when they don’t die, leaving you to experience the same pain over and over, each time loathing yourself for wishing it would finally happen and put an end to the anxiety. Of course this leaves you scarred and feeling guilty. And those feelings then claim whole parts of your life until you can find a way to deal with it. I’m one of the lucky ones; some never do.
After failed relationships and a move from Los Angeles to New York, the author; with the aid of time and distance; is able to gain some clarity on just what the hell happened to him while growing up. It took a long time, and was not an easy path, and in many ways the author still struggles to see what the meaning of it all has been.
Later in life he finds the family of his real father, where he is accepted by his half-brothers and sisters as an equal; a true sibling. After a journey of a lifetime the author finally gets his family and learns that love takes many different forms, and families come in many shapes and sizes. What counts most is the love.
This is a very different kind of memoir; it’s more of a search by the author to find out who he really is. And once he figures that out he still needs to assess the damage which has already been done. As the author’s mother used to say, “Well, at least it’s never boring.”