Bird Eyes by Madelyn Arnold

cover of the book Bird EyesBird Eyes by Madelyn Arnold
Genre: Award Winner; Fiction
Copyright Year:
Published: 2000
Publisher: Griffin
Editor:
Format: Trade Paperback
Type:
No. of Pages: 240
Series:
No. In Series:
ISBN: 312262949
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Winner of a Lambda Literary Award on its first publication in 1988, Madelyn Arnold’s brilliant, unflinching depiction of life on the back ward of a mental institution in the early 1960s has been reissued in paperback to coincide with the publication of her third novel, A Year of Full Moons . Less colorful than One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest , and harder to take, Bird-Eyes describes the fleeting happiness that Latisha, a 16-year-old runaway institutionalized for ‘incorrigible behavior’ finds in her friendship with Anna, a much older deaf woman locked away by her well-meaning family for suffering too long and intense a grief at the death of her husband. The psychiatrist in charge of the ward, where the ‘real crazies’ and others of no consequence are interred, is Dr. Kim, a Korean Mormon with poor English skills whose first cruel command when Anna arrives is that she be forbidden to use sign language, which looks to him like the gestures of an animal. ‘Dr. Kim liked things simple, ‘ Latisha explains. ‘He liked things very neatly tied together: ‘You don’t talk with hands, ‘ he told her. Nothing she could say. He read this somewhere. ‘ Slowly, Latisha is able to teach Anna how to negotiate the ward–how to keep her hands busy with cards or cigarettes, how to mix extra-strong cups of coffee to counteract the dope–while, in return, she picks up sign from Anna, so that they share a secret language, a heady but dangerous connection. –Regina Marler
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