Synopses & Reviews
Priyanka Kumar's essays and criticism appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Huffington Post, the Santa Fe New Mexican, and High Country News. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, TAKE WING AND FLY HERE explores our changing relationship with the outdoors in the American West.
Kumar was awarded the Aldo & Estella Leopold Writing Residency in 2020. She is also a recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Award, New Mexico/New Visions Governor's Award, Canada Council for the Arts Grant, Ontario Arts Council Literary Award, and an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Fellowship.
She received her M.F.A. from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, and wrote, directed and produced the feature documentary THE SONG OF THE LITTLE ROAD, starring Martin Scorsese and Ravi Shankar. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, was "Pick of the Week" in the Los Angeles Times, and is in the permanent collection of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
An alumna of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Kumar has taught at the University of California Santa Cruz, the University of Southern California, and the Pima Writers' Workshop. She spoke on "Ecological Fiction" at the AWP Conference in Washington, DC. She is a contributor to the anthology, FIRST AND WILDEST: THE GILA AT 100 and the NEW MEXICO POETRY ANTHOLOGY. Her new books, THE LIGHT BETWEEN APPLE TREES and CONVERSATIONS WITH BIRDS are forthcoming. She serves as a Board Director of the Leopold Writing Program.
"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."