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The Skinned Bird

4.73  ·  Rating details ·  59 ratings  ·  26 reviews
From award-winning essayist Chelsea Biondolillo, THE SKINNED BIRD is about all the ways we break our own hearts. In lyric, fragmented essays—full of geological, ornithological and photographic interventions, with landscapes, loss, and longing—Biondolillo travels the terrain of leaving and finding home while keeping her sights fixed firm on the natural world around her.

Paperback, 175 pages
Published May 1st 2019 by KERNPUNKT Press
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Average rating 4.73  · 
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Liz Prato
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Biondolillo's essays are powerful and brave in the way they braid stories about her personal life and information about the natural world. Her use of non-traditional structures (lists, photographs, footnotes and redactions) allows the reader to engage with the material on a deep level. They are not just words on a page, but pieces of a puzzle that you move into place. I keep thinking of the essay that is largely redacted, what a powerful statement it makes about how even a memoirist has private ...more
Joanne Dugan
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chelsea Biondolillo’s “The Skinned Bird" seamlessly weaves science and intuition into text, image and diagram that allows us to travel wild-eyed and headfirst into this deliberate and hopeful repurposing of trauma and loss. We are transfixed by the baby bird who leaves a perilously broken nest to finally be able to see, then sing, and through the sharing of these songs, we manage to finally hear our own.
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book is short in page count, but NOT in shared life experiences, family drama, birds ❤️, nature and insects, personal growth, and honesty. This is a hidden gem, and I can see myself reading passages from thus again in the future. Wonderful writing!
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. a beautiful collection of essays.

chelsea biondolillo masterfully intertwines science and memoir to create some really lyrical and gorgeous essays. she parallels the stages of birdsong production with the stages of her own life and uses birds as a motif between seemingly distinct sections of the book. the integration of nature and ornithology is done with consideration and thoughtfulness, always serving a purpose in the greater story.

biondolillo employs several unique formats such as i
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"If, for example, I'd sometimes like to imagine that my insecurities are the function of a sublime natural order, a restlessness that speaks to and through stars or tides or tectonic plates, it isn't because I need to feel more important than I am, but less singular.

And if I'd rather think about birds, any bird, really, than all the people I've known who had to choose between relative risks, between an empty or full bed, between an anger that could be predicted and one that could not, it's becau
Amy Doan
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful collection of essays. Lyrical, stirring, completely original. Can't wait for her next book.
Jami Nakamura Lin
I'm usually done with books relatively quickly-- either devouring them out of love, or discarding them out of hate. This essay collection I read very slowly-- and only in the bathtub!-- because I wanted to savor each paragraph, re-read each sentence, go back and catch the nuances that I missed on first pass.

Her strength lies in combining meticulous research with her own personal narrative in a way that is seamless and thoughtful, not jarring or contrived. When she shifts between discussing (in
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Weaving science with personal essays this collection is a wonderful read.
Beth Alvarado
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, "The Skinned Bird" was a memoir in essays, even though each essay was so different in form. Studying nature helps her understand her own nature and so she uses the process that birds go through to learn to sing as a way of explaining her own journey to find her voice. Ironically, by the end of the book, I don’t feel as if nature is a metaphor at all; instead, there is no separation between animal impulse and human.
Melissa Grunow
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, compelling, and thought-provoking book. I devoured it!
Dorothy Bendel
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an innovative collection of essays that experiments with form and photography to excavate the truth of the author's experiences. Biondolillo delves into relationships (with her father & her ex) and her own sense of self through close, unflinching examination. If you're interested in essay writing that pushes boundaries, this is an excellent read. ...more
Sarah Weaver
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous and lyrical hybrid essays are the yarn Biondolillo uses to weave her life stories into this book. I devoured The Skinned Bird in two days, and that’s with several Wikipedia searches included (the book includes amazing tidbits of facts that fascinated me).
Daniel Elder
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is blazing new trails. Breaking walls, bending genre. The writing is just impeccable. Something to revisit again and again.
sarah gilbert
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I want to tell you first that my favorite essay was the one about the tattoo. “With this ring,” it’s called.

Throughout this book of essays I’m struck with how possible it is to tell everything without telling everything, to hide painful internal dialogue and “how I feel about this now,” or, “what this DID to me,” in scientific descriptions of skinning birds or the musculature of a great blue heron, in spaces between delicate and bold descriptions of the small, painful, devastating actions of lov
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Facts from the migration habits of geese to scientific taxidermy to tarantula pets sit alongside personal narratives of a distant father, painful break-up, and a grandmother's birdwatching journal.

In some juxtapositions, it creates a close parallel, as in "How to Skin A Bird." Instructional prose is intercut with early family-of-origin memories such that we feel that the young protagonist is being taken apart, preserved, and displayed. Another straightforward match appears in "Notes Toward A Pa
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-essays
Beautifully composed and intriguing in its approach, which is elliptical more than narrative and which makes extensive use of an objective correlative (birds) to tell the writer's own story as she sees herself reflected in their lives and deaths.
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Art and essay collides in Chelsea Biondolillo's The Skinned Bird. Shifting seamlessly between stories about the people around her, her innermost thoughts, and the natural world we all inhabit, Biondolillo captures the essence of beauty and sadness, humor and grief. The form is fluid and hard to wrap your hands around. Each chapter is a discovery, or three.
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chelsea Biondolillo wields words with scalpel precision. In her memoir/ collection of essays, she dissects locale, relationships, and desire, teasing them apart until what at first might be taken as clinical and foreign becomes intimately familiar. Good essayists offer something of themselves in the writing. Biondolillo knows what specifics to reveal, the shells of what to keep hidden, and the skins of what remains unknown to her as well. Underlying all is deep connective tissue for readers to d ...more
Kate Woodward
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book nearly two days ago. It caused me to think on my own life, my grown children also. How we adapt to life trauma especially. Nothing but five stars from me. The use of nature was exquisite.
Jason Arias
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essays
Biondolillo's essays are intelligent and potent. Her prose is simultaneously jarring and seductive. The way she weaves the sky with the earth, the ornithological with the emotional, is captivating. I found myself trying to prolong the ending, but not being able to help myself. Essential reading.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This has instantly become one of my favorite books. I find some experimental forms distance me from the content, complicating things to the point of impenetrability, but the innovations and risks taken here perfectly suit the stories they hold as well as the intelligent, honest voice in which they are told. The results are truly thrilling.
Thea Swanson
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Science and emotion are equally weighted within each elegant essay as Biondolillo unravels flights and habits of birds and self, of nature and nurture.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A remarkable debut full-length from an author who combines the magnificently researched with the deeply personal. Biondolillo tracks her family and relationship history through the ways we study birds; not the animals themselves, but the preservation of those birds and the chronicling of them. She experiments fearlessly with the genre, crafting multi-layered texts that challenge the reader in a welcoming way.
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, small-press
Loved this book of essays by @cdbiondolillo from @kernpunktpress. Takes risks with the form but the prose is always exquisitely balanced. A quietly devastating book I’ll come back to again.

Marissa Korbel
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Experimental, lyrical, beautiful.
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lovely read. Some times agonizing and savage in describing desertion and the depth of separation, other times weaving poetry and science and wonder into narrative non-fiction. Just a fantastic collection of essays.

My favorite line: "I am looking for a way to get at the experience of a thing, the memory of it, to better understand the meaning of it. I am expecting the process to be messy."
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May 31, 2019
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Oct 20, 2019
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Chelsea Biondolillo is the author of The Skinned Bird (KERNPUNKT Press, 2019), and two prose chapbooks, Ologies and #Lovesong. Her work has been collected in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016, Waveform: Twenty-first Century Essays by Women, and How We Speak To One Another: An Essay Daily Reader, among others.

She is a former Oregon Literary Arts fellow and Olive B. O'Connor fellow at C

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