The Book of Dead Birds
By Gayle Brandeis
HarperCollins, Hardcover, 9780060528034, 256pp.
Publication Date: May 1, 2003
List Price: $23.95*
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Winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize, an award in support of a literature of social responsibility, The Book of Dead Birds is an intimate portrait of a young woman at a defining moment in her life, who stands at the intersection of two cultures and races.
Ava Sing Lo has been accidentally killing her mother's birds since she was a little girl. Now, having just finished her graduate work, Ava leaves her native San Diego for the Salton Sea, where she volunteers to help environmental activists save thousands of birds poisoned by agricultural run-off.
Helen, Ava's mother, has been haunted by her past for decades. As a young girl in Korea, Helen was drawn into prostitution on a segregated American army base. Several brutal years passed before a young white American soldier married her and brought her to California. When she gave birth to a black baby, her new husband quickly abandoned her, and she was left to fend for herself and her daughter in a foreign country.
With great beauty and lyricism, The Book of Dead Birds captures a young woman's struggle to come to terms with her mother's terrible past while she searches for her own place in the world. This moving mother-daughter story of migration, survival, and reconciliation resonates across cultures and through generations.