Praise for Conversations with Birds
"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
"Just as immersion in nature inspires a mix of profound awe and renewed curiosity about this Earth we call home, so, too, does filmmaker and novelist Priyanka Kumar’s mesmerizing essay collection, Conversations With Birds —rendered in finely wrought prose, steeped in memory and thrumming with endless curiosity."—BookPage, starred review
“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
"Growing up in India, Priyanka Kumar felt connected to the natural world. It was hard to find that in America as an adult—until she and her husband were invited to go on a bird walk, unlocking that passion once again. Conversations with Birds chronicles just some of Kumar’s most significant avian encounters in the American southwest, ranging across the map from songbirds to birds of prey. These beautiful reflections range from spiritual to breathtaking to concerns of how our rapidly changing climate puts all of life at risk—not just the things with feathers. Gorgeous, stirring, and memorable.”—Andrew King, Secret Garden Bookstore, Seattle, WA
“This book spoke to my soul. A city girl whose connection to the natural world became more and more tenuous as I got older, I moved to the country to restore it. My daily soundtrack became the call of songbirds, jays, doves, geese, swans, and heron. Nothing can take your breath away quicker than watching a Coopers Hawk or Bald Eagle alight on a branch, or carrying on a literal conversation with a Chickadee. Kumar captures the wonder of creatures many of us take little notice of, but whose lives, migration patterns, and habitats are increasingly threatened by climate change and development.”—Alana Haley, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, MI
“Conversations with Birds gives me hope that the dozens of pollinators will survive and underscores that we must all do better to preserve that outcome. Our challenge is laid out in this compelling and beautifully written memoir: address the negative impact of our occupation of this planet and shed blessings upon the species we share it with. Priyanka Kumar and I both celebrate that companionship. Her thoughtful and gracious book leaves me in awe of the possibilities.”—Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI
“A bird the color of mangoes, a beachcomber with a crescent-moon bill, the owl who controls the dark side of nature: in unforgettable encounters with feathered neighbors like these, Priyanka Kumar charts the life-changing surprise and splendor that birds can bring. They open the heart. They widen the soul. For Kumar, a peripatetic filmmaker and often a stranger in a strange land, birds have revealed connection and created wholeness. How grateful I am for the chance to join this generous author’s lyrical, intimate, and revelatory conversations with birds!” —Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
“Birds have guided Priyanka Kumar through danger, loss, joy, and change. In her moving collection of elegant essays, Conversations with Birds, she recounts her close encounters with cranes and curlews, owls and tanagers, generously sharing their wisdom and her own."— Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction
“Priyanka Kumar is attuned to the animating power that links her—and you and me—to our fellow creatures. While she has a deep affinity for birds, especially cranes and eagles and owls, she communes as well with bobcat, coyote, fox and their four-legged kin. It is a joy to travel with this versatile artist, often in the company of her husband and their two young daughters, as she roams the American Southwest in search of elusive and majestic wildlife.”—Scott R. Sanders, author of The Way of Imagination
"Priyanka Kumar’s graceful and unusual work reminds us, again, of everything we lose with each insult to the natural world. Conversations with Birds is a wonderful read!”—Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever
A delightful ode to birds and a powerful defense of the planet we share with them.
In this moving memoir, filmmaker and novelist Kumar explores encounters with birds as meditations on the natural world. Told in a series of vignettes comprised of notable bird sightings, the narrative offers countless magnificent reminders of the beauty and force of nature as well as warnings of human-caused destruction as bird populations plummet due to such factors as habitat loss, water shortages, and changing temperatures. Kumar didn’t take up birding until her 20s, when a chance encounter on the beach with some avid birders and a flock of curlews transformed her life. This experience became her access point to nature, and she nurtured that connection, whether living in urban settings like Los Angeles or, later, rural New Mexico, where “even the winters are sun-drenched.” Through birds, the author was able to revisit the childhood intimacy with her surroundings that she cherished growing up in the heavily forested mountains of northeastern India. “Birds became a portal to a more vivid, enchanted world,” she writes, and “allowed me once again to relish solitude in the way I had as a child.” This sense of enchantment permeates the book as she brings us along on her adventures, including long odysseys to see bald eagles, bobcat sightings through her living room window, and glimpses of the mango-colored tanager in a city park. The author is clearly concerned about leaving a planet rich with wildlife for her children, but her ancestors are also on her mind. She lost both her parents and brother as a young adult, and she connects to their spirits through birds and nature. Ultimately, this is a book about the interconnectedness of generations and ecosystems, and birds are the conduit between the two. “Sometimes it just takes the right bird to awaken us,” writes Kumar.
An eloquent depiction of how birding engenders a deep love of our ecosystems and a more profound understanding of ourselves.