My name is Avocet Abigail Jackson. But because Mama couldn’t find anyone who thought Avocet was a fine name for a child, she called me Bird. Which is okay by me. She named both her children after birds, her logic being that if we were named for something with wings then maybe we’d be able to fly above the shit in our lives. . . .
So says Bird Jackson, the mesmerizing narrator of Connie May Fowler’s vivid and brilliantly written, Before Women Had Wings.
Starstruck by a dime-store picture of Jesus, Bird fancies herself "His girlfriend" and embarks upon a spiritual quest for salvation, even as the chaos of her home life plunges her into a stony silence. In stark and honest language, she tells the tragic life of her father, a sweet-talking wanna-be country music star, tracks her older sister’s perilous journey into womanhood, and witnesses her mother make a courageous and ultimately devastating decision.
Yet most profound is Bird’s own story–her struggle to sift through the ashes of her parents’ lives, her meeting with Miss Zora, a healer whose prayers over the bones of winged creatures are meant to guide their souls to heaven, and her will to make sense of a world where fear is more plentiful than hope, retribution more valued than love. . . .
"A thing of heart-rending beauty, a moving exploration of love and loss, violence and grief, forgiveness and redemption." –Chicago Tribune
"There is no denying the depth of Connie May Fowler’s talent and the breadth of her imagination." –The New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant." –The Boston Sunday Globe
About Connie May Fowler
CONNIE MAY FOWLER is an essayist and screenwriter, as well as the author of three previous novels, including Sugar Cage and River of Hidden Dreams. In 1996, she published Before Women Had Wings, later a successful “Oprah Winfrey Presents” TV… More about Connie May Fowler
Told through the eyes of 9-year-old Bird Jackson, BEFORE WOMEN HAD WINGS is a poignant tale of resilience and triumph in the face of abuse and poverty. When you read it, you are somewhat glad that it’s fiction because you hate to think that a child could be treated so awfully.
I discovered, however, that this book is — unfortunately — based on a true story. The author Connie May Fowler grew up poor and fatherless in St. Augustine, Florida. She and her sister were frequently targets of their mother’s alcoholic rage. As a child, Connie sought refuge from her awful circumstances through words, first through reading and then through writing. Connie has said that for her writing was a kind of salvation. You sense this in her writing, because her tone never comes off as being the least bit bitter.
After reading her book, I was dying to meet her. I had seen her on the Oprah Winfrey Show, when she talked about her book, which Oprah made into a Oprah Winfrey Presents movie on ABC-TV (in which Oprah and Ellen Barkin starred). She seemed so sweet, you just couldn’t imagine anyone hurting her. I finally got the opportunity to hear her read from her book when she appeared at the Miami Book Fair last fall. She is a marvelous reader! If you ever have the chance to hear her, please go. Her voice has this wonderful lyrical quality, and she has a true appreciation for words and their meaning.
I feel privileged to know Connie, and I can’t wait for her to write her next book, since I’m now a true fan!