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The Book of Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis
Ava Sing Lo is the daughter of a Korean prostitute and an absent black American serviceman. Unable to identify with either Koreans or African-Americans, she grows up in San Diego detached from life. Even her mother passed herself as her babysitter because she looked so different from her. As a child, Ava was the accidental cause of the death of her mother's birds. Upon graduating from college without any real goals or purpose in life, she is drawn to the Salton Sea when she hears about the massive death of birds there by agricultural botulism. Ava, and eventually joined by her mother, joins other environmental activists in saving what birds they can. This tenderness with the birds helps Ava heal some of her own emotional wounds and brings her closer to her mother. The Rocky Mountain News call Gayle Brandeis's The Book of Dead Birds "a uniquely inventive novel about a young woman coming to terms with her mother's past, her own confused identity and a growing sense of responsibility toward an endangered environment."