Writer and filmmaker Priyanka Kumar joins us for a conversation about her new essay collection, Conversations with Birds (Milkweed Editions).
"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
This is a free virtual event.
About Conversations with Birds
"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."
About Priyanka Kumar and Peter Rainer
Priyanka Kumar is the author of Conversations with Birds, which has received wide acclaim. Her essays and criticism appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Orion, and High Country News. Her work has been featured on CBS News Radio, Psychology Today, and Oprah Daily. She is a recipient of a Playa Residency, an Aldo & Estella Leopold Writing Residency, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Award, a New Mexico/New Visions Governor’s Award, a Canada Council for the Arts Grant, an Ontario Arts Council Literary Award, and an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Fellowship.
Peter Rainer is the film critic for the Christian Science Monitor and a regular contributor to NPR’s Film Week. He is also the author of Rainer On Film: Thirty Years of Film Writing in a Turbulent and Transformative Era and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism.