Above the East China Sea

Above the East China Sea A Seattle Times Best Book of the YearIn her most ambitious moving and provocative novel to date Sarah Bird makes a stunning departure Above the East China Sea tells the entwined stories of two teen

  • Title: Above the East China Sea
  • Author: Sarah Bird
  • ISBN: 9780385350112
  • Page: 213
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A Seattle Times Best Book of the YearIn her most ambitious, moving, and provocative novel to date, Sarah Bird makes a stunning departure Above the East China Sea tells the entwined stories of two teenaged girls, an American and an Okinawan, whose lives are connected across seventy years by the shared experience of profound loss, the enduring strength of an ancient cultureA Seattle Times Best Book of the YearIn her most ambitious, moving, and provocative novel to date, Sarah Bird makes a stunning departure Above the East China Sea tells the entwined stories of two teenaged girls, an American and an Okinawan, whose lives are connected across seventy years by the shared experience of profound loss, the enduring strength of an ancient culture, and the redeeming power of family love Luz James, a contemporary U.S Air Force brat, lives with her strictly by the rules sergeant mother at Kadena Air Base in Okianawa Luz s older sister, her best friend and emotional center, has just been killed in the Afghan war Unmoored by her sister s death and a lifetime of constant moving from base to base, Luz turns for the comfort her service hardened mother cannot offer to the Smokinawans, the waste cases, who gather to get high every night in a deserted cove When even pills, one hitters, Cuervo Gold, and a growing crush on Jake Furusato aren t enough to soften the unbearable edge, the desolate girl contemplates taking her own life.In 1945, Tamiko Kokuba, along with two hundred of her classmates, is plucked out of her elite girls high school and trained to work in the Imperial Army s horrific cave hospitals With defeat certain, Tamiko finds herself squeezed between the occupying Japanese and the invading Americans She believes she has lost her entire family, as well as the island paradise she so loved, and, like Luz, she aches with a desire to be reunited with her beloved sister On an island where the spirits of the dead are part of life and your entire clan waits for you in the afterworld, suicide offers Tamiko the promise of peace As Luz tracks down the story of her own Okinawan grandmother, she discovers that, if she surrenders to the most unbrat impulse and allows herself to connect completely with a place and its people, the ancestral spirits will save not only Tamiko but her as well Propelled by a riveting narrative and set at the very epicenter of the headline grabbing clash now emerging between the great powers, Above the East China Sea is at once a remarkable chronicle of how war shapes the lives of conquerors as well as the conquered and a deeply moving account of family, friendship, and love that transcends time.

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    About " Sarah Bird "

  • Sarah Bird

    Above the East China Sea My previous novels are Alamo HouseBoyfriend SchoolMommy ClubVirgin of the RodeoYokota Officers ClubFlamenco AcademyHow Perfect Is ThatThe Gap YearI ve been a columnist for Texas Monthly for the past eight years Awards include a Dobie Paisano Fellowship a National Magazine Award Elle Magazine Readers Prize People Magazines Page Turners Barnes Nobles Discover Great Writers a BookSense Pick NY Public Library s Books to Remember s Fiction and Literature Editors Best Book of the Year list SW Critics Best Novel of the Year Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Work of Fiction, twice and Writers League of Texas Award of Literary Merit Besides Texas Monthly my articles and essays have appeared in Oprahs Magazine, NY Times Sunday Magazine, Real Simple, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Salon, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, MS, and Texas Observer I ve written screenplays for Paramount, CBS, Warner Bros, National Geographic, ABC, TNT, Hemdale Studio, and several independent producers.

  • 509 Comments

  • A dual story line, two teenage girls, one Luz on a Okinawa military base in present day and the other Tamiko, living in Okinawa during World War II. These girl have more in common than is known at the books beginning. I found both stories fascinating and they are tied together seamlessly.He present day story takes place during Oban, three days where the dead are invited to return to their families for days of feasting and goodwill, until they are chased away at the end of the third day.Luz has h [...]


  • I almost gave up on this book because it's got a slow start but I am so glad that I stuck with it. The payoff was an amazing story that moved me, such a happy/sad ending. But really the best part? Reading about a place and time that I know nothing about, I love it when a story teaches me something and pushes me to learn more. I've already put on hold at the library one of the books that the author mentions as one of her main sources for historical information, The Girl with the White Flag.


  • I have a new favorite book of the year: Sarah Bird’s Above the East China Sea. This is one of those deeply satisfying reads that works on many levels. It moves among several settings: the U.S. military base on Okinawa in the present day and Okinawa outside of the base; Okinawa during World War II when the Island served as a defensive barrier between Japan and U.S. warships; the Okinawan spirit world, led by spirits called kami.This book is the story of two young women and is narrated in their [...]


  • I think this is one of Sarah Bird's best books. I was resentful that life got in the way of reading this in one sitting as I wanted to completely lose myself in the lives of the two protagonists. I found that I cared very deeply for them. I am also a fan of any book that teaches me about something I really don't know anything about as this one did about Okinawa in two different times, 1945 and current time. This book, simply put, has so much heart in both its fictional characters and historical [...]


  • I didn't even do any status updates, that's how amazing this story was. I felt the author was very clear about the tragedy that Okinawa played in history, and it really takes me back to the course I took in college on Japanese Colonial rhetoric. After losing my mom this year, I'm a particular softy for afterlife stories. Okinawans have such a deep connection with ancestry, that I could feel it through a fictional tale.


  • This is on the top of my favorites list. There are two stories that move along quickly. I read it fast the first time to follow the story. It carried me along. Then (and I usually don't do this) turned around and read start to finish immediately again. I loved the story both times. The first read was for the story and the second for more details. I highly recommend it.



  • Ten years ago, Sarah Bird's Yokota Officer's Club was one of my favorite books. She returns to the world she knows well, that of being a military dependent, with this stunning, original, illuminating and multi layered story. Two fifteen-year-old girls, both living in Okinawa 70 years apart, form the nexus of a complex, beautifully realized story, encompassing the grief, beauty and turbulent history of Okinawa. Okinawa was a colony of Japan, with its own traditions, language, and strong spiritual [...]


  • I love this book. It's beautiful. And fascinating. The characters are well-written and have believable strengths and weaknesses. The book is occupied by ghosts (spirits), maybe as a book that covers WW2 should be, but it is not a supernatural or occult book. The horrors here are all too real, too man-made. It offers a perspective on WW2 that I admit I'd never considered. And some knowledge about Okinawa that is new andunsettling. Read it.


  • This book was truly unique for me. Living in Hawaii, I have many Okinawan friends. This was the first book set in Okinawa that I've every come across. I know a little about the culture. I found the book very enlightening. We all know that Japan took advantage of Okinawa during WWII, but I had no idea as to what extent! Ms. Bird expertly wove the past in with the future to make the island come to life. Kami (spirits of the dead) narrate their own story, while the modern day element takes the shap [...]


  • Review also found at kristineandterri/2I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Knopf via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication data is May 27, 2014.This story started a little odd for me. Talking about spirits and the spirit world and giving a voice to those who have left the earth. I was concerned that the story was going to be different than I expected and one that I would have to say. One piece of advice that I would give to anyone who is rea [...]


  • Half of "Above the East China Sea" is historical fiction chock full of Okinawan folklore, and centers around Tamiko, an Okinawan girl living during WWII. The other half is a YA (Young Adult) social situation story about Luz James, an army brat in present day Okinawa. Add an additional element that readers will probably describe as either paranormal or spiritual, and the result is a complex, lush journey that reveals that when we heal our ancestors, we also heal ourselves.Though alternating viewp [...]


  • This is the most memorable, thought provoking, emotional book I have read in a long long time. Set in both WWII and current eras, the setting was described in such vivid detail I found myself back on Okinawa, and the base at Kadena, where I spent limited time in the 90's. The rich portrayals of families and cultural practices, in both eras, drew me right into the scenes. Few people are aware that Okinawa was not always a part of Japan (or a significant US military location)and know little of its [...]


  • I always love Sarah Bird's books--the funny ones and the lyrical ones, the ones that show me the world and make me think, and the ones that take a microscope to the everyday challenges and . . . oh, look at that, make me think. Bird hits a chord with me every time with her tight, beautiful prose and her universal yet unique stories. This is among her best--a tale that effortlessly bridges the lives of a modern military brat and a World War II Okinawan girl thrust into the war. Beautiful, evocati [...]


  • Two stories twined around each other, Okinawa during WWII and Okinawa today. But what a story, starting as a coming of age teen fiction, moving on to a war story, fragments of magical realism entwined throughout. This is my favorite book this year. Well written, good plot and oh so satisfying endingme things are well telegraphed but not annoyingly so. satisfying. "Ah so that is who that is"And how could I have lived there in the mid 60s and not known that almost a third of the civilian populatio [...]


  • This is one of my favorite books of 2014! It's a compelling and very interesting story of two teenage girls living in Okianawa. In the present day, there's the daughter of a military mom, living on the air force base with challenges beyond the usual teenage angst. The second teenager lived seventy years prior and faced very different challenges, in the midst of the war and the American occupation. As you might expect, the stories evolve and get closer as the book progresses. Another wonderful bo [...]


  • This is a new Sarah Bird. "Above the East China Sea" reads like a love letter to the people of Okinawa in that there is a sadness about how the Okinawans have been treated by the Americans. It is a ghost story that matches a very real story of the school girls who acted as nurses to the wounded troops on the island and the current day teens of American Air Force personnel stationed in Okinawa. A grisly discovery will help Luz reunite a ghost girl with her family spirits. Beautifully crafted with [...]


  • Loved this book. To me, it's a book about our connections to our ancestors, our families and to history.It so happens that the story takes place on Okinawa and is told in two timeframes. One is during WWII and one is contemporary--the two principal characters being teenage girls who are suffering loss and depression. The contemporary girl, Luz, is a beautiful nuanced character. Some reviewers find this to be a ghost story, but in my view, that is a disservice to the book. The story does personal [...]


  • I had no knowledge of Okinawa before picking up this novel I have never read anything pertaining to Japan come to think of it! That said I learned so much from this about the Okinawan culture and the strong ancestral beliefs they hold! It truly fasinated me! This was told in a past/present format that worked perfectly to give the reader a true sense of the Okinawan culture and the part they played in WW II! I really enjoyed!


  • Having won this historical fiction book on , I couldn't wait to read it. It was a hard book to get into however I'm glad I stuck with it. Any book that enlightens me on a subject is a winner to me. I had no idea of the plight of the people from Okinawa whether from the Japanese or later the Americans. The dual story of the two girls was well told. I wasn't sure about the "spirit" part but I now understand what an important part of Okinawan life it is.


  • Disclaimer: had I realized this was the author of 'The Yokota Officers Club', I'd have left this book at the library. As it was, I tried. Made it to page 120 and quit. Sarah Bird's military brats live in a world that is even more angsty than the average teens, simply because they have all that military brat baggage. They whine a lot, which is natural for teens, but Ms. Bird seems to feel that their lives would be fine were they the progeny of civilian parents, I guess. This irks me, as it shifts [...]


  • Self-described mid-list literary novelist Sarah Bird raised the bar with her most recent release, Above the East China Sea. The novel revolves around two families from different cultures separated by more than a half century. The two families are similar in that they have two sisters (who are close), a strong mother figure, and an almost invisible father figure. The setting is Okinawa, Japan where Bird spent some of her formative years. The complex novel begins with the two families’ separate [...]


  • This book is a "must read" for anyone who enjoys a different and unusual story. It's the first Sarah Bird book since Alamo House that really appealed to me. (I must say that Alamo House was one of the cleverest and funniest books I've read and remember.)Above the East China Sea, and warning, it's a slow starter and has some very graphic descriptions of war and its consequences. Don't give up. It is worth pursuing. Army brats will probably relate from the beginning, but any intelligent reader wil [...]


  • This is a departure for Sara that might put her in the literary hall of fame -- Sara is a writer for Texas Monthly and lives in Austin, ( I think?). Thank you Book People for putting this one on my horizon. This book about Okinawa then and now is beautiful and haunting and wonderful, and I'd like to go hear Sara discuss how she wrote it.  It somewhat reminds me of The Good Earth meets Memoirs of a Geisha.  Fictional story that promotes the idea of Americans getting in touch with their history [...]


  • I'm a long time Sarah Bird fan. I still count Alamo House as one of the funniest books I have ever read. This one was very different however. In fact,it was so bleak and depressing in the beginning that I was worried I wouldn't be able to get through it. It didn't help that the book I got from the library was for one week only, so I knew I would have to read fast. But once I got into it, I tore through the book. It was wonderful. Great characters, prose, everything. It is one of my favorite book [...]


  • This is an extraordinarily original book. It weaves the past, the present, and the Okinawan spiritual world into a beautiful and satisfying story that I had to read twice. It's there-exciting and sad Asian history, modern teen coming of age (crossover!), and the best ending I've read since Sarah Bird's early book, The Mommy Club. Book clubs will love it.


  • This story was deeply moving. I love historical fiction, and the tragedy endured by the people of Okinawa was truth that I had not learned before. Sarah Bird wove the two girls together so thoughtfully. Their connections were surprising and magical. I won't forget this story.


  • I loved this book, a real standout in Sarah Bird's oeuvre. It's a beautiful novel that feels like both an ambitious departure from her earlier fiction and a perfectly natural evolution of her unique voice and vision.


  • Quoting Sarah from a review: "I got so weighed down waiting for things to happen that by the end I was either sick of some of the characters or just not interested in them at all anymore."



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