Birds of Paradise Lost

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" (Cuu Kim Son, a Vietnamese name for San Francisco that also serves as a synecdoche for the United States). Lam, a Vietnamese-American writer and journalist, acknowledges the profound losses of his parents' generation, but also embraces the buoyant desires of his adopted country--a "mysterious and vast garden... its soil made fertile by love and its endless foibles."

Illustrating the contradictory yet porous divide between East and West, Lam's stories reveal indelible, quirky insights. "Minh oi," a term of endearment in Vietnamese that means "my body," affirming the transcendent unity of husband and wife, is linked to metaphors of sexual bondage in the gay S&M world of "Love Leather." Former boat refugees, now affluent, become "yacht people"; a father's failed war becomes his son's passport to a compassionate life. The most accomplished among this vivid flock of stories, however, is "Everything Must Go," which reenacts the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in the dark basement of an estate sale as two lovers are forever divided by their seemingly intractable worldviews. He mourns his lost Eden through broken relics, while she revels in rare bargains as a way to redeem her future. --Thuy Dinh, editor, Da Mau magazine

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