Birds of Paradise Lost (Paperback)
Red Hen Press, 9781597092685, 216pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
The thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of America’s newest Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. The past—memories of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity—is ever present in these wise and compassionate stories. It plays itself out in surprising ways in the lives of people who thought they had moved beyond the nightmares of war and exodus. It comes back on TV in the form of a confession from a cannibal; it enters the Vietnamese restaurant as a Vietnam Vet with a shameful secret; it articulates itself in the peculiar tics of a man with Tourette’s Syndrome who struggles to deal with a profound tragedy. Birds of Paradise Lost is an emotional tour de force, intricately rendering the false starts and revelations in the struggle for integration, and in so doing, the human heart.
About the Author
Praise For Birds of Paradise Lost…
“Andrew Lam’s Birds of Paradise Lost brilliantly engages the fundamental theme of much great literary work: who am I and what is my place in the universe? His stories are elegant and humane and funny and sad. Lam has instantly established himself as one of our finest fiction writers.”
“Andrew Lam’s exacting delivery is matched only by his mesmerizing story; and in this collection of tales, both raw and oneiric, is a majestic credo.”
“I’ve been reading Andrew Lam’s work since he was a budding journalist nearly two decades ago. Lam is a sharp writer with wit, charm, and wisdom.”
“After reading Birds of Paradise Lost, it feels as if one has been to the opera. This is a work drenched in color and music, sorrow and beauty. The intensity of emotion conveyed in these pages is stunning. A bravura performance.”
“While Andrew Lam’s characters share a broader history, each story is an entire world that Lam animates fully with remarkably spare strokes. What these stories have in common is the intelligence behind them, which is at once fierce, compassionate, and wonderfully perverse. Each story pleases and surprises, and the collection as a whole resonates long after the reading is done.”
“Andrew Lam is one of a handful of writers who are truly necessary to the emotional and intellectual health of American culture today. Whether exploring the contemporary political ironies of the streets, the fates of individual victims of war, or the indefinable tenderness between lovers, his stories show us truth we may have turned away from or never recognized. Lam’s stories go deep and stay with you a long time.”
“These poignant, sometimes humorous, often heart-rending stories gift us with the voices and faces of the Vietnamese-American community: a community that has finally been able to express itself through the fiction of a new generation of writers such as Andrew Lam. Yet this is also fiction which in its universal and human truths pulls off the delicate trick of both including and transcending the ethnic genre and firmly situates Lam among the best writers of American—and world—literature.”
“When I grow up, I want to be Andrew Lam. I want to write with a kind of voice that is both charming and full of sadness and humour. Mr. Lam is an important writer, providing a unique lens into American life. Yes, someday, I would like to be Andrew Lam.”
—Angie Chau, author of Quiet As They Come
“Whatever happened to the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ who escaped after the fall of Saigon? ‘A lot’ is the simple answer; for a complicated, often scabrously funny account, read Andrew Lam’s stories. They are so American, so unexpected, so nuanced and robust, that you will be informed, charmed, and deeply moved.”
—Howard Junker, Editor Emeritus, Zyzzyva
“The 13 stories in Andrew Lam's Birds of Paradise Lost soar like birds in mid-flight, bridging the space between the dreamscape of Vietnam and the glass and steel of "Gold Mountain"”
—Thuy Dinh, Shelf Awareness
“Lam crystallizes the tension of immigration—the pull between wanting to hold onto the old world while needing to accept the strangeness of the new—with sensitivity, beauty, and yet with a welcome lack of sentimentality or bathos.”
—NinaSankovitch, Huffington Post
"Several decades have passed since harrowing and miraculous tales of 'boat people' splashed across the headlines. In the eclectic and engrossing collection of short stories by Andrew Lam, readers are bound to rediscover a profound sense of awe at the vastness of such journeys, both literal and metaphorical, from Vietnam to America."
—Elizabeth Rosner, The San Francisco Chronicle
"One of Lam’s greatest gifts is his ventriloquist-like ability to get inside each narrator’s skin. Just as Lam connects with and penetrates each persona, so too each persona achieves a moment that bridges or leaps the gap between our two cultures, forever wedded by the tragic war."
—Randy Fertel, Kenyon Review
"The past, in other words, reappears in unpredictable ways, especially for those who think they can simply “move beyond” the nightmares of war and exodus. In Birds of Paradise Lost, the language of trauma is translated by the day-to-day heartbreak of surviving... the true immigrant narrative is not about turning rags into riches; it’s about fending off the ghosts of war."
—The Los Angeles Review of Books