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.
The past 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.
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.”—Robert Olen Butler
“Read Andrew Lam, and bask in his love of language, and his compassion for people, both those here and those from far away. He reminds us that we have history in common; we can laugh and cry together.”—Maxine Hong Kingston
“Grandma is in the freezer, there’s Zoloft in the chicken curry, and a man is on fire in Washington D.C. The immigrant story will never be the same again now that it’s gone through Andrew Lam’s prose – razor-tongued, sophisticated, achingly aware of where it comes from but never imprisoned by its memory. Lam takes the traditional immigrant story and set it ablaze and then serenely rescues from its burning embers what had been there all along – the all-American story.”—Sandip Roy, commentator, Morning Edition, National Public Radio
“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.”—Nina Sankovitch, 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