An avian expert and poet shares a true story of beloved birds, a remarkable grandfather, a bad-girl youth—and an astonishing redemption
Nikki Moustaki, author of The Bird Market of Paris, grew up in 1980s Miami, the only child of parents who worked, played, and traveled for luxury sports car dealerships. At home, her doting grandmother cooked for and fed her, but it was her grandfather—an evening-gown designer, riveting storyteller, and bird expert—who was her mentor and dearest companion.
Like her grandfather, Nikki fell hard for birds. "Birds filled my childhood," she writes, "as blue filled the sky." Her grandfather showed her how to hypnotize chickens, sneak up on pigeons, and handle baby birds. He gave her a white dove to release for luck on each birthday. And he urged her to, someday, visit the bird market of Paris.
But by the time Nikki graduated from college and moved to New York City, she was succumbing to alcohol and increasingly unable to care for her flock. When her grandfather died, guilt-ridden Nikki drank even more. In a last-ditch effort to honor her grandfather, she flew to France hoping to visit the bird market of Paris to release a white dove. Instead, something astonishing happened there that saved Nikki’s life.
“The Bird Market of Paris is a stunning, exceptional memoir from a woman who truly understands and appreciates birds—who could not resist the warmth of a baby lovebird in her hand, or the poetry in watching eggs turn to baby birds—and who found strength in them to carry her through addiction and heartache. A captivating, heart-warming tale and a delightful, inspiring read.” —Joanna Burger, author of The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship
“I've long been a devotee of Nikki Moustaki's poetry. Now, her keen eye, deft language, and startling voice shine just as brilliantly in her memoir, The Bird Market of Paris, a work of remarkable honesty, proving the power and exuberance of her prose. The wisdom of an exceptional grandfather, a passion for birds, and the darkness of addiction—all spun together by Moustaki's gift for finding just the right words, at the right time—give life to this epiphany-provoking gem of a story, skillfully crafted, vivid and rich with feeling.” —Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood
“Nikki Moustaki's The Bird Market of Paris is a terrific book, a beautiful memoir of a child's love of birds, instilled in her by a loving grandfather. The love he gave her helps to save her from the oblivion of alcohol.” —Dan Wakefield, author of the memoirs Returning: A Spiritual Journey and New York in the Fifties
“Through breathtaking, lyrical prose, Nikki Moustaki bares herself on the page, and renders her coming of age and its uncontainable desires through the surprising metaphor of birds. This debut narrative is a stunning, inspiring, honest, break-your-heart recovery memoir with wings, a triumphant story of the brick-by-brick building of sobriety and of family love.” —Christa Parravani, author of Her: A Memoir