cover image Migratory Birds

Migratory Birds

Mariana Oliver, trans. from the Spanish by Julia Sanches. Transit, $15.95 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-945492-52-5

Essayist Oliver debuts with a thoughtful, roving meditation on migration, language, and home. In intimate pieces studded with references to history and literature, Oliver ponders such topics as the tug of home and the consequences of dislocation. In the title essay, she imagines the interior life of Bill Lishman, a Canadian naturalist and inventor who studied avian migration patterns. While trying to save birds in danger of extinction, Lishman discovered that chicks born in captivity could be helped to migrate and return from whence they came, leading Oliver to conclude that “home is also a recording from childhood, an implanted memory.” “The Other Lost Boys and Girls” sees Oliver blending reportage with evocative prose from a trip to Old Havana, where a U.S.-funded scare campaign in the 1960s said that the state would take children from their parents, which resulted in over 14,000 children being sent to Florida, the devastating consequences of which reverberated for decades. In “Ozdamar’s Tongue,” she ruminates on the writer Emine Sevgi Ozdamar, who moves from Turkey to Germany and finds refuge in the “indeterminate foreignness” of a new language. Oliver’s dreamlike, intelligent musings don’t always cohere with the narrative’s broader theme of migration, but few will begrudge following this exciting writer as she experiments and explores. Fans of lyrical essays will enjoy this literary global odyssey. (June)