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Birds of Paradise Lost

Andrew Lam

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: Red Hen Press

Praise for Book, Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgments, Dedication

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pp. 1-10

Contents, Quotation

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pp. xi-xiv

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Love Leather

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pp. 1-19

Mr. Le looked up one morning from mending a vest at the Love Leather and saw a very good-looking Asian kid, his oldest grandson’s age, maybe, seventeen at the most, staring quizzically at him from the sidewalk. When their eyes met through the glass pane, the boy’s ruddy cheeks turned a deeper shade of red and Mr. Le had to look away. ...

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Show & Tell

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pp. 20-32

Mr. K brought in the new kid near the end of the semester during what he called Oral Presentations and everybody else called Seventh-Grade Show and Tell. “This is Cao Long Dinh,” he said, “and he’s from Vietnam,” and immediately mean old Billy said, “Cool!” ...

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The Palmist

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pp. 33-38

The palmist closed up shop early because of the pain. He felt as if he was being roasted, slowly, inside out. By noon he could no longer focus on his customers’ palms; their life and love lines had all failed to point to any significant future, but blurred and streaked instead into rivers and streams of his memories. ...

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pp. 39-52

This dude, right, a loner and everything, made his sorry ass part of our family, and Mamma insisted that me and Pammy call him Uncle Steve, but I wouldn’t. Uh-uh. I called him U.S. for short. ...

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Everything Must Go

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pp. 53-71

On a windy morning in June, when the fog had finally lifted and the air was cool, they borrowed a truck to drive around Noe Valley in search of garage sales. Along the way they saw many Victorian homes, some of which reminded her of wedding cakes, especially those with white trim, and she said so to him. ...

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Grandma’s Tales

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pp. 72-78

The day after Mama and Papa took off to Las Vegas, Grandma died. Lea and me, we didn’t know what to do. Vietnamese traditional funerals with incense sticks and chanting Buddhist monks were not our thing. ...

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pp. 79-97

“Eat,” Mr. Nguyen tells his little girl, “eat, you must eat, please, for your Ba,” and she cries. “No! I won’t,” she says through runny nose and tears, “no meat, no meat.” As she is saying this, Mr. Nguyen quickly spoons the stir-fried pork into her mouth, but she spits it right back out. ...

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Birds of Paradise Lost

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pp. 98-111

Mister Qua’s oolong tea from Guangdong was wasted that Thanksgiving morning. As usual we sat at our corner table at the Golden Phoenix, Mister Qua’s restaurant, chatting when Mister Huy ran in as if chased by a ghost. “Undone, absolutely undone,” he yelled and waved the San Jose Mercury News expressively above his bald head. ...

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pp. 112-128

So she guesses—wrong. She hears her brother groan on the other end and has to suppress a laugh. It’s as far-fetched a guess as can be. Her brother, cute but shy, and strangely immature, has yet to find a girlfriend, let alone do what she just guessed. ...

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Yacht People

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pp. 129-137

How are you doing tonight? Hot? Yeah, sure is hot. We’re having a tropical heat wave, folks. So hot, it reminds me of coconut trees and thatched-roof huts. It makes me think of myself as this impossibly handsome little boy playing with his dog, or, as so many of you are fond of putting it, playing with his food. ...

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Bright Clouds Over the Mekong

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pp. 138-158

It was unfathomable, but there he was. One bright afternoon the door of her restaurant opened to admit a tall man who limped a little, like someone trying to stay steady at sea. When he neared her, he said, “Chao co, manh gioi?”—in an awkward tone delivered by an inflexible tongue. ...

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Close to the Bone

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pp. 159-183

“Rain delayed Napoleon. He wanted the ground to dry out a little before the attack. Wellington’s army was over here, on St. Jean, but they withstood repeated attacks. By nightfall they counterattacked and drove the French from the field. . . . There were heavy losses on all sides.” ...

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Step Up and Whistle

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pp. 184-200

How my uncle ended up almost exactly where he was three decades ago, repeating the same gestures that turned his life upside down, would be too bizarre to imagine, let alone make up. But since “The Staircase Incident” was written up in the local papers, and he was called “mentally disturbed” on the evening news, it demands explanation. ...

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About the Author

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p. 216-216

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. Lam is an editor and cofounder of New American Media, an association of over two thousand ethnic media outlets in America. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781597092784
E-ISBN-10: 1597092789
Print-ISBN-13: 9781597092685
Print-ISBN-10: 1597092681

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: First