Like A Bird
“There was something powerful in being seen.”
Taylia Chatterjee has never known love, and certainly has never felt it for herself. Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, with her older sister Alyssa, their parents were both overbearing and emotionally distant, and despite idyllic summers in the Catskills, and gatherings with glamorous family friends, there is a sadness that emanates from the Chatterjee residence, a deep well of sorrow stemming from the racism of American society.
After a violent sexual assault, Taylia is disowned by her parents and suddenly forced to move out. As Taylia looks to the city, the ghost of her Indian grandmother dadi-ma is always one step ahead, while another more troubling ghost chases after her. Determined to have the courage to confront the pain that her family can’t face, Taylia finds work at a neighborhood café owned by single mother and spiritualist, Kat. Taylia quickly builds a constellation of friends and lovers on her own, daring herself to be open to new experiences, even as they call into question what she thought she knew about the past.
Taylia's story is about survival, coming to terms with her past and looking forward to a future she never felt she was allowed to claim. Writing this for eighteen years, poet and activist Fariha Róisín’s debut novel is an intense, provocative, and emotionally profound portrait of an inner life in turmoil and the redemptive power of community and love.
Cover Art by Gill Button
Praise for Like A Bird
"LIKE A BIRD is such a generous text, teeming with layered and beautifully living characters. A flaw of so much book praise is the quest to make every book universal. This book sings, specifically, to a people, while leaving the door open wide enough for anyone else to walk through."
—Hanif Abdurraqib, bestselling author of 'They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us' and 'Go Ahead in the Rain'
"LIKE A BIRD is a delicate tale of femininity, family, and trauma. Studded with jewels of poetic beauty and shaped by wisdom, this is a coming-of-age story about choosing oneself before choosing heritage–Taylia’s journey is ripe with the radical love of friendship, the power of ancestors and sisterhood, the wounds and joys of ‘the body’s ancient tapestry,’ and, as with Roisin’s other work, everything points to a sincere spirituality, a connection to and respect for the invisible world. Deeply moving and a marvel to read."
—Aria Aber, 2020 Whiting Award Winner and author of 'Hard Damage'
"LIKE A BIRD pulses brilliantly, bright as a fresh wound as it seals and heals itself, as we bear witness to the travails and trauma of our wise young narrator, Taylia. In Fariha Róisín’s delicate, deft prose, the heartbreak of violence and familial estrangement compel a journey—rife with mistakes we all know well— towards a found, motley of mothers and lovers. Róisín’s imagination ruptures narratives about the aftermath of trauma. We are not left scarred, but permanently imprinted with Taylia’s resolute will to find her own way in the world."
—Tanaïs, author of 'Bright Lines'
"Fariha Róisín's novel sings of building joy within sorrow and spins a gossamer reverie that clings to the consciousness... With its profound testaments to the love of found families and the courage involved in daring to open a cracked heart, LIKE A BIRD is an unforgettable novel."
"In LIKE A BIRD, Róisín grapples with big issues, from identity to racism to sexual assault, but she does so with a lyricism and generosity that allow the reader intimate access into Taylia's experience, and the opportunity to feel the same empowerment and freedom that Taylia achieves for herself."
—Kristin Iversen, Refinery29
"In lustrous, lyrical language, multifaceted artist Róisín has written an ode to the joy and healing power of self-love. This powerful novel is highly recommended."
—Library Journal, *Starred Review*
"Well-paced and hopeful, this stirring work will resonate with those interested in stories of young women breaking free of oppression and trauma."
"LIKE A BIRD is more than a story of victimhood. It is a timely epic of female friendship... a tour de force for women of color."
—Shafia Hafiz Ramji, Chicago Review of Books