Book Review.
Bird Girl: Looking to the Skies in Search of a Better Future
Written by Mya-Rose Craig

What is it like to be a teenager who has seen over 5,000 species of birds spanning all seven continents, plus Madagascar? What is it like to be a teenager whose mother suffers from severe bipolar disorder? What is it like to be a British Bangladeshi girl wondering how to nurture a passion for birding amongst more people who look like her? Mya-Rose Craig’s gripping memoire, written at the tender age of 19 yet demonstrating unusual maturity, lyrically weaves together these three themes, showing how they have deeply interconnected in her life.

I could barely put the book down, enjoying immensely Ms. Craig’s descriptions of the grit and persistence required to see birds on her family’s target list—and then their rush of joy when those birds came into view. If anyone you know is wondering why birding can be difficult and yet is really, really fun, this is a great book to give them.

I was also moved by the way birding helped her mother grapple with mental illness by giving her something compelling to focus on. Staying on the lookout for birds while trudging up South American mountains, coping with African heat, and managing seasickness on ocean birding trips all gave her mom reasons to focus on something sane, to the extent that world birders are sane people! Birding—both its hardships and its delights—has often been a kind of meditation for Ms. Craig’s mother, as well as for Ms. Craig’s father and for herself.

Ms. Craig’s desire to make more birding opportunities available among Visible Minority Ethnics has propelled her to an astonishing variety of actions: writing a very successful birding blog, creating a birding summer camp for minority youth, writing two children’s books (one about bird migration and another about prominent, minority eco-activist youths), spearheading a conference to advocate for more inclusive activities among British nature organizations, appearing on numerous TV shows and at conferences, and campaigning to protect the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Bangladesh. For her extraordinary activism, while still a teen in 2020 Ms. Craig received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol.

Poignantly addressing mental health, minority struggles, and conservation issues, while also brimming with lush descriptions of bird life, enthusiasm for the natural world, and hope, Bird Girl is a memoire not to be missed.

Christine M. Du Bois, Coordinator of the Lansdowne Bird Town and editor of Bird Beat

Photo credits:

Mya-Rose Craig, used with her permission.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, by Gin tonic, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0