Descanso for My Father


Descanso for My Father

Fragments of a Life

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher

American Lives Series

168 pages
18 illustrations


March 2012


$14.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2012


$14.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

When his father died, Harrison Candelaria Fletcher wasn’t quite two. His mother packed up his father’s belongings, put the boxes in a hall closet, and closed the door. The “man in a box” remained a mystery, hardly mentioned, and making only rare appearances in stories when Fletcher or his siblings inquired. Meanwhile, his young Hispanic mother transformed herself into an artist, scouting the back roads and secondhand shops of New Mexico for relics and unlikely treasures to add to her “little shrines,” or descansos. “Look closely,” she’d say to her son. “Everything tells a story.” 

This book is Fletcher’s literary descanso, a piecing together—from moments and objects and words—of a father’s life, of the life lived without that father, and of his own mixed-race identity. Fletcher’s reflections unfold like a collage, offering a rich array of images and stories of life with his single mother, organizing weekend family car trips to explore graveyards and adobe ruins; of growing up on the fault lines of class and culture; of being a father who never had one of his own to learn from. From incidents and observations, Fletcher assembles a beautifully crafted portrait of his family’s unspoken affliction with loss over the decades, a portrait that finally evokes the father at its heart.

Author Bio

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the winner of a New Letters Literary Award, High Desert Journal Obsidian Prize, Pushcart Prize Special Mention, and has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award and PEN Center Literary Award.



“Fletcher deftly shows us the meaning of the word ‘quest’—investigation, dream, and religious pursuit all cohere around the essential mystery of one man’s life. In the process, the author faces his own relics, making a large picture out of the bright shards of memory and uncertainty.”—Judith Kitchen, author of Distance and Direction

"An homage not only to his dad but to Harrison's own boyhood joys, sorrows and searching, the book makes clear the author's expansive literary sensibilities."—Kirkus Reviews

"Fletcher's prose is simply gorgeous, and Albuquerque's cultural heritage is richly depicted in this book of essays, which adds to our understanding of family, landscape and their role in the formation of identity. An exquisite literary debut."—Rigoberto Gonzalez, El Paso Times

"Ultimately it is language and a sharp eye for detail, not suspense, that pulls the reader along. . . . In a memoir-drenched era of publishing, Descanso is refreshing."—Jana Fornario, Southwestern American Literature

"Descanso for My Father is laced with stories about people encountering ghosts. Candelaria Fletcher may not be clairvoyant, but he conjures up the spirits of his ancestors in this unusual and moving book."—Jenny Shank, High Country News

"Like the dreamlike shadowboxes of Joseph Cornell, Fletcher assembles scraps of imagery and inherited keepsakes into an enchanting quest to understand his family's stories. . . . In the same way a painter applies the principles of negative space to a composition, Fletcher, who understands the endless possibilities of the essay form, relies on memory and observation, while safeguarding the sense of absence, the space of silence in his prose."—Jericho Parms, Rumpus

Table of Contents

Beautiful City of Tirzah
Among the Broken Angels
Man in a Box
One Prayer


2014 International Book Awards Best New Nonfiction from USA Book News
Winner of the Creative Nonfiction category in the 2013 Colorado Book Awards
2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards Bronze Medal Winner, Essay/Creative Nonfiction category

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