Today on Trapped by the Mormons, I want to welcome Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds.
Gayle is one of those accomplished lyrical literary writers we all want to be, and also a very, very nice person to boot. I’m also very jealous because she won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction, and everyone KNOWS I want to be Barbara Kingsolver when I grow up.
Here’s a little about Gayle’s book:
Ava Sing Lo has been accidentally killing her mother’s birds since she was a little girl. Now in her twenties, Ava leaves her native San Diego for the Salton Sea, where she volunteers to help environmental activists save thousands of birds poisoned by agricultural runoff.
Helen, her 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.
The Book of Dead Birds won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Barbara Kingsolver created the award to advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice, and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Toni Morrison and Maxine Hong Kingston were the judges who, in addition to Barbara Kingsolver, selected The Book of Dead Birds.
Praise for The Book of Dead Birds
Lyrical, imaginative, beautifully crafted, and deeply intelligent. Before anything else, its characters take you by the heart.
The Book of Dead Birds has an edgy beauty that enhances perfectly the seriousness of its contents.
A moving and perceptive first novel.
The vivid tale of a woman learning to save and cherish life.
–San Francisco Chronicle
A uniquely inventive novel…How splendidly the author has balanced art with environmental obligation…It is exciting in literary circles when a first-time novelist does as well as Brandeis does with The Book of Dead Birds.
–Rocky Mountain News
Brandeis has a poet’s ear for the music of language…[her] characters and their fledgling flights of the heart stay with readers long after the book is closed and set aside.
Captivating…A poignant and wonderful novel.
–Dallas Morning News
Intricate and elegant…[Brandeis] mines universal human experiences, not the least of which is the need to get beyond the heartbreak of the past to create a livable future.
Gathers power and momentum to wind up both mysterious and spiritual.
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In addition to The Book of Dead Birds, Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco) and Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications). Both Fruitflesh and The Book of Dead Birds were chosen as selections for the BookSense list, compiled by the American Booksellers Association. Her second novel, Self Storage, will be published by Ballantine in 2007.
Gayle’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies (such as Salon.com, Nerve.com, The Mississippi Review, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency) and have received several awards, including the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award, a Barbara Mandigo Kelley Peace Poetry Award, and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her essay on the meaning of liberty was one of three included in the Statue of Liberty’s Centennial time capsule in 1986. The Writer Magazine honored Gayle with a 2004 Writer Who Makes a Difference Award for her work in the community as well as her commitment to craft.
Gayle holds a BA in “Poetry and Movement: Arts of Expression, Meditation and Healing” from the University of Redlands, and an MFA in Creative Writing/Fiction from Antioch University. She is on the faculty of the UCLA Writers Program, and is writer in residence for the Mission Inn Foundation’s Family Voices Project. She lives in Riverside, CA with her husband and two children.