The thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of new Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. Past memories -- of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity --are ever present Andrew Lam’s 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.
"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
Andrew Lam is the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, which won the 2006 PEN Open Book Award, and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. He is an editor and cofounder of New American Media, an association of over two thousand ethnic media outlets in the US.
He was a regular commentator on NPR'’s All Things Considered for many years, and was the subject of a 2004 PBS documentary called My Journey Home. His essays have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, The LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Baltimore Sun, The Atlanta Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Mother Jones, and The Nation, among many others.