Conversations with Birds
Description"Birds are my almanac. They tune me into the seasons, and into myself." So begins this lively collection of essays by acclaimed filmmaker and novelist Priyanka Kumar. Growing up at the feet of the Himalayas in northern India, Kumar took for granted her immersion in a lush natural world. After moving to North America as a teenager, she found herself increasingly distanced from more than human life, and discouraged by the civilization she saw contributing to its destruction. It was only in her twenties, living in Los Angeles and working on films, that she began to rediscover her place in the landscape -- and in the cosmos -- by way of watching birds. Tracing her movements across the American West, this stirring collection of essays brings the avian world richly to life. Kumar's perspective is not that of a list keeper, counting and cataloguing species. Rather, from the mango-colored western tanager that rescues her from a bout of altitude sickness in Sequoia National Park to ancient sandhill cranes in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and from the snowy plovers building shallow nests with bits of shell and grass to the white-breasted nuthatch that regularly visits the apricot tree behind her family's casita in Sante Fe, for Kumar, birds "become a portal to a more vivid, enchanted world." At a time when climate change, habitat loss, and the reckless use of pesticides are causing widespread extinction of species, Kumar's reflections on these messengers from our distant past and harbingers of our future offer luminous evidence of her suggestion that "seeds of transformation lie dormant in all of our hearts. Sometimes it just takes the right bird to awaken us."
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About the Author
"In this collection of elegant and evocative essays, a novelist reflects on the beauty and significance of birds, those animals that 'become a portal to a more vivid, enchanted world.'"--New York Times
"This isn't just a book about birds, it's a look at the joy and curiosity we feel when we build connections with the natural world.... With gorgeously descriptive language, [Kumar] shares her fascinating discoveries about birds and uses them as a gateway to explore topics like climate change, racism, and spirituality. For anyone feeling lost in our increasingly complicated human world, Conversations With Birds is just the compass you need."--Apple, "November Best Books of the Month"
"Kumar wows in this sparkling exploration of her relationship with the birds that serve as her 'almanac' and help her tune 'in to the seasons' and to herself. . . . Kumar's reflections are rendered in elegant prose and are rich with vivid descriptions: 'At the brink of the water, turquoise with milky sprays, the birds pirouetted and scooted away from the vigorously choppy waves' . . . These outstanding reflections will inspire and enlighten, and are perfect for readers of Diane Ackerman."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"An eloquent depiction of how birding engenders a deep love of our ecosystems and a more profound understanding of ourselves."--Kirkus, starred review
"Priyanka Kumar's outstanding and profoundly moving book Conversations with Birds ... could help people around the world rewild their hearts and souls.... [A] landmark, most timely book."--Marc Beckoff, Psychology Today
"In 20 vignettes and essays, Priyanka Kumar lovingly narrates how encounters with birds have molded her outlook on life, family, and nature, bridging the mountains of her childhood in India to her adult wanderings in California and New Mexico. A spark was Kumar's chance 'mango-colored bird' sighting--a Western Tanager--that stirs her to 'aliveness' during a near-death experience; her powerful musings take off from there. Her writing is full of beauty but also tells of destruction of the interconnected ecosystems that sustain birds and people. 'Sometimes it just takes the right bird to awaken us, ' she writes."--Audubon, "Six Books for Bird Nerds and Nature Lovers"
"In the luminous essays of Priyanka Kumar's Conversations with Birds, birds are a portal to reclaiming childhood connections with nature and the lush, wild landscape of northern India's remote mountains."--Foreword Review
"Novelist Kumar takes stock of the beauty she's found in birds, from northern India to the American West."--Publishers Weekly, Top Ten Nonfiction Book for Fall 2022
"Kumar reflects on climate change, habit destruction, beauty, and the importance of staying open to wonder."--Book Riot
"Conversations With Birds consists of Kumar's observations, insights, and engagement with birds and the earth in prose that feels like a gentle guide for the reader to nurture their own relationship with nature, whatever it may look like...Kumar's writing is one of many reminders of what we have to lose, and what we must save."--Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"Kumar's illustrative writing style has the power to bring readers along on the journey through arroyos and Georgia O'Keefe's mountains. The dwindling number of eagles wintering in the wetlands of New Mexico evokes a certain sadness. Kumar emboldens readers to act upon concern for all sentient beings amid widespread ecological demise."--Maileen Hamto, San Francisco Book Review
"In Conversations with Birds... Priyanka Kumar shares her vast knowledge of birds and wildlife ...The author's word choices and turns of phrase are sometimes downright delightful, enlivening her reportage of birdwatching treks."--Pasatiempo Magazine