The Book of Dead Birds

The Book of Dead Birds has an edgy beauty that enhances perfectly the seriousness of its contents.

Toni Morrison

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 abandonned 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.

Lyrical, imaginative, beautifully crafted, and deeply intelligent. Before anything else, its characters take you by the heart.

Barbara Kingsolver

“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

“A moving and perceptive novel.”

O: The Oprah Magazine

“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.”

January Magazine

“What a shimmering and accomplished first novel! The landscapes of Korea and southern California, and the territories of a mother’s fierce dreams and her daughter’s tentative flights, are all rendered with graceful language and stark, affecting honesty.”

Susan Straight

author of Highwire Moon

“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.”

Denver Post