“The Death of My Father the Pope,” Obed Silva’s debut is a memoir about his own struggles with violence and addiction growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico and later in Los Angeles, CA, as he processes the life and death of a father from whom he inherited deep psychological wounds and alcoholism. An abusive, larger-than-life figure, whose talent for painting was never fully realized, Silva’s father is portrayed by the East Los Angeles College professor in both his worst and best lights. At the same time, as Silva relates his father’s story and his own, including details about Silva’s seven brushes with death–one of which has left him paralyzed for life–the author also provides insight into the transborder existence of so many who live along the United States’ southern border with Mexico.
On this week’s “Scheer Intelligence,” Silva joins host Robert Scheer to talk not just about his memoir but how literature saved his life in more ways than once.
“I’m able to see these similarities between my life and the characters [in books such as ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ or ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’],” says.. “When I read these books, I take that information and apply it to my life. [To me] there’s nothing in [a] self-help book that isn’t in a Dostoyevsky novel or a Victor Hugo novel, or Don Quixote de La Mancha.”
In a poignant moment, Scheer opens up to Silva about his own past struggles with alcoholism, highlighting how the author’s book, while deeply personal, is also profoundly universal in its themes. Silva also tells Scheer about his father’s missed opportunity to become a professional painter after the famed Mexican muralist Aarón Piña Mora took him under his wing. Ultimately, says Silva, addiction was stronger than his father’s drive to paint, leading him to pursue a career as a plasterer rather than as a visual artist.
Listen to the full conversation between Silva and Scheer as they discuss paternal love and loss, as well as immigration, liberal arts, and Silva’s mother, a bright spot in the author’s life.
“The Death of My Father the Pope” by Obed Silva. Photo credit: McMillan