My Name is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

Welcome to the latest stopover on the TLC Book Tour.

This TLC Book Tour is a serious read:  My Name is Iris  by Brando Skyhorse.   It’s a frightening and cautionary tale.  I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher for this stopover.  I assure you I was not paid for this review and all opinions, thoughts and rants are completely my own.

About the book.

My Name Is Iris

Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster (August 1, 2023)

Hardcover: 272 pages

Brando Skyhorse, the PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of The Madonnas of Echo Park, returns with a riveting literary dystopian novel set in a near-future America where mandatory identification wristbands make second-generation immigrants into second-class citizens–a powerful family saga for readers of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind.

Iris Prince is starting over. After years of drifting apart, she and her husband are going through a surprisingly drama-free divorce. She’s moved to a new house in a new neighborhood, and has plans for gardening, coffee clubs, and spending more time with her nine-year-old daughter Melanie. It feels like her life is finally exactly what she wants it to be.

Then, one beautiful morning, she looks outside her kitchen window—and sees that a wall has appeared in her front yard overnight. Where did it come from? What does it mean? And why does it seem to keep growing?

Meanwhile, a Silicon Valley startup has launched a high-tech wrist wearable called “the Band.” Pitched as a convenient, eco-friendly tool to help track local utilities and replace driver’s licenses and IDs, the Band is available only to those who can prove parental citizenship. Suddenly, Iris, a proud second-generation Mexican American, is now of “unverifiable origin,” unable to prove who she is, or where she, and her undocumented loved ones, belong. Amid a climate of fear and hate-fueled violence, Iris must confront how far she’ll go to protect what matters to her most.

My Name Is Iris is an all-too-possible story about family, intolerance, and hope, offering a brilliant and timely look at one woman’s journey to discover who she can’t—and can—be.

“Skyhorse’s satirical eye is sharp. . . . He cultivates an engrossing Kafkaesque atmosphere across the novel. A well-imagined allegory of divisive racial politics.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Any new book by Brando Skyhorse is a cause for celebration. My Name Is Iris is rich and full of heart and emotion. This is the work of a lifetime of experience, and you will not forget his characters.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

 About the Author:

Brando Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His memoir, Take This Man, was named one of Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Books of 2014 and one of NBC News’s 10 Best Latino Books of 2014. He also coedited the anthology, We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America. A recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center fellowship, Skyhorse teaches English and creative writing at Indiana University Bloomington.

What I thought…

Skyhorse creates a totally believable character in Iris.  She’s no-nonsense when it comes to parenting.  She’s a rule follower.  She’s smart, practical, educated.   That is, she’s totally believable until she separates from her husband and moves into a “Stepford Wives-like” neighborhood.  Strange things begin to happen.

If Iris is so together and practical, then why when she and her daughter see a growing stone wall on their newly purchased home’s front yard does she not go screaming into the night? Or, when her murdered childhood friend starts appearing to her, why did she not question her sanity? At the very least, why did she keep following the rules and try to achieve the quintessential American dream in the shadow of that growing and undulating wall?  And, why, oh why, did she vote for The Band?

Skyhorse creates such a conundrum in Iris.  Her irrational way of dealing with the wall and reality somehow makes Iris even more real and sympathetic.   That the reader could see themselves in Iris’ shoes makes it unbelievably frightening.

Iris has always found herself in between two worlds.   Her immigrant parents taught her to focus on fitting in and conforming.  Even if she was spoken to in Spanish, she was instructed to reply in English.  Her husband’s family deals with conspiracies and paranoia which she just can’t tolerate.   On her side of the family,  she ignores or placates her younger sister’s warnings about the state of society.   Career-wise, she works hard with her head down and strives to not make waves even when she realizes she makes 50% less than her white, male counterparts.  She’s drifting along creating the life she has always wanted, the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood with perfect friends.

As her life becomes more and more difficult because of the absences of a The Band,  Iris is forced to make hard decisions and the final half of the book finds her making some doozies.

I found this a difficult book to read, not because of Skyhorse’s writing or his characters but because of the subject matter.  While My Name is Iris might be considered sci-fi, it is truly dystopian and hits a little close to home.   I found it frightening.

The author brings up such serious subjects (bias, “Big Brother,” racism, bigotry, immigration issues, and gentrification just to name a few) that I just could not do my usual recipe tie-in.  I felt like that would be trite and would take away from the issues that Skyhorse emphasizes.

Would I recommend this book?  YES.  And I plan on seeking out Skyhorse’s previous books.

Just know this is not a summer beach read.


1 comment to My Name is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

  • The reviews of this book have been phenomenal. It sounds like such an important read. I’m recommending it to my own IRL book club this winter. Can’t wait to dig in. Thank you!