Bird Milk & Mosquito Bones: A Memoir

In her charmingly titled debut, Bird Milk & Mosquito Bones: A Memoir, filmmaker Priyanka Mattoo offers an impassioned account of a family forcibly displaced from their ancestral homeland of Kashmir and an improbable path that led to love, motherhood, and creative success in Los Angeles, Calif. An origin story inlaid with whimsical Kashmiri proverbs, the memoir brims with humor and startling honesty as Mattoo offsets chucklesome anecdotes about arriving in the U.S. as a high school freshman with the isolation of a childhood that stretched from Srinagar and London to Riyadh and New York.

A former talent agent, Mattoo has contributed to the New York Times and the New Yorker, where a portion of these essays have previously appeared. Through the shifting process of recalling her earliest memories of Kashmiri life, she evokes not only the stunning natural beauty of the region but also its unfortunate position as a prize fought over by two nuclear-armed countries. Here, her voice joins with other writers, including Arundhati Roy, as their courageous essays bring attention to India's military occupation of the disputed land.

Mattoo's skillfully crafted memoir is a family tapestry that harkens back to her great-grandparents yet is firmly rooted in the present. Through her parents, she connects her children with their Kashmiri heritage, and she also celebrates her husband's Jewish heritage. She shares her mother's recipe for delicious rogan josh alongside comically wry observations on her South Asian upbringing. Ultimately grateful for her lot in life, Mattoo concludes that, while home can be an elusive concept, it's the people who sustain us. --Shahina Piyarali

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