Bird, Sarah 1949- (Sarah McCabe Bird, Tory Cates)

views updated

Bird, Sarah 1949- (Sarah McCabe Bird, Tory Cates)


Born December 26, 1949, in Ann Arbor, MI; daughter of John Aaron (a psychologist) and Colista (a nurse) Bird; married George Roger Jones (an engineer), August 19, 1983; children: Gabriel. Education: University of New Mexico, B.A., 1973; University of Texas, M.A., 1976.


Home—Austin, TX.


Writer. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC, writer, summer, 1975; University of Texas, Austin, editor in department of bilingual education, 1976-78; Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Austin, writer and photographer, 1978-80; freelance writer, 1980—. Worked as scuba diving instructor in Calella del Palafrugell, Spain, 1971, and guide at the botanical gardens in CapRoig, Spain, 1972; also worked in France.


Best of Austin feature writing award from International Association of Business Communicators, 1982, for feature article "Talkin' Trash," and 1983, for feature article "A Distant Place of Mind."


(As Sarah McCabe Bird) Do Evil Cheerfully (novel), Avon (New York, NY), 1983.

The Other Rodeos, illustrated with own photographs, Oasis Press, 1984.

Alamo House: Women without Men, Men without Brains (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 1986, reprinted with readers guide, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Boyfriend School (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.

The Mommy Club (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.

Virgin of the Rodeo (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.

The Yokota Officers Club, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.

The Flamenco Academy, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of romance novels and contributor to magazines under pseudonym Tory Cates. Contributor to magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Ms. Associate editor of Third Coast and author of "Real Life," a monthly column. Author of introduction to Between Heaven and Texas (poetry), by Wyman Meinzer, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2006.

Bird's manuscript collection is housed at the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University.


Sarah Bird is the author of several works featuring female protagonists. Bird's first novel, Do Evil Cheerfully, is about a woman photographer who infiltrates a religious cult in order to unravel the mystery of her lover's death. Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Kristiana Gregory called the suspense novel "a good ride, right to the white-knuckle end."

In Bird's 1991 novel, The Mommy Club, the sculptor Trudy finds herself a surrogate mother years after having an abortion. Trudy agrees to live in the upscale home of her boss Hillary Goettler as she prepares to carry the baby for Goettler and her husband. However, problems arise when the Goettlers place Trudy on a strict healthy lifestyle regimen and Trudy begins to feel less and less like a person and more like a human incubator. Problems also come Trudy's way when she turns to an old lover for kindness and affection. In a review in Publishers Weekly, a critic favorably noted the author's "incisive humor, deft characterization, … and the surprising, poignant resolution."

At the age of twenty-nine, Sonja Get sets out in search of her father in Virgin of the Rodeo. Sonja is the result of a fling her German mother Tinka had with a Native American rope-twirler. Changing her name to Son Hozro, which means "harmony with nature" in Navajo, the heroine joins with Prairie James, a macho performer of rope tricks on the rodeo circuit who claims he can help her find her father. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the book provides "an insider's tour of the rodeo, including the women's, blacks' and gays' version of this bit of vibrant Americana." Commenting on the book in Entertainment Weekly, Kate Wilson noted: "Sarah Bird's fourth novel is pure Texas: It's charming, it's twangy."

The Yokota Officers Club focuses on Bernie (Bernadette), an eighteen year old who, in 1968, discovers vast changes within her family after she goes to visit them in Okinawa on an Air Force base. Her parents' marriage is failing, and the family is mired in mystery that ruined her father's career. It also destroyed the relationship with Fumiko, the family's former maid, whom no one is allowed to talk about. Writing in the Library Journal, Beth E. Andersen noted that the author "nails the voice of Bernie in a delicate balance of confused, shy child vs. the bright emerging woman she" develops into. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the dialogue is first-rate," adding that "the decade becomes fresh again when seen from the unusual perspective of a military family." Lynn Nutwell wrote in the School Library Journal: "Bird has created a deftly choreographed journey of the heart, delicate and nuanced in its disclosure of painful family secrets, yet liberally seasoned with robust humor."

In her 2006 novel, The Flamenco Academy, Bird tells the story of two young high school girls, Cyndi Rae and Didi, whose friendship includes a common passion for the flamenco dance. Despite their friendship, the two girls have many differences and encounter turmoil within their relationship that is heightened by their mutual love for a flamenco guitarist named Tomas Montegro. Anrea Wyman, writing in the Library Journal, applauded the "vivid storytelling" that stems from the tales told by Tomas's great aunt, Dona Carlota, who is part gypsy. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Bird "delivers a story brimming with romance and visceral details of flamenco, its music and its history." Elizabeth Dickie commented in Booklist that "Rae's honest and captivating voice … move[s] the story and compel[s] the reader." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "The story concludes not with blood and tragedy but the stuff bestsellers are made of."

Bird once told CA: "As an introspective little nerd growing up in an Air Force family that moved far too often (I remember having five new schools in the fifth grade alone), I found great solace in the permanence of books. Travel and books have remained constants in my life.

"Seneca House started when I was a graduate student living in a women's cooperative boarding house actually called Seneca House. For two years I was surrounded by the most intelligent, idiosyncratic, feisty, aloof, loving, maddening, endearing, headstrong women I've ever known. I went around mumbling to myself, ‘These people belong in a book.’ Seneca House is that book.

"In the book, I wanted to reflect the humor and pathos of those years as well as some of the cultural conflicts at work at the University of Texas. The chief conflict is between the spirit-rich, penny-poor women of Seneca House and the overindulged yahoos that populate the fraternity house across the street from them. I certainly spent enough nights being kept awake until four in the morning by the braying depravities of the frats across the street to create some truly satisfying revenge schemes for my characters in Seneca House to pull off. The book also draws on the time I spent as an archivist technician at the LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson) Presidential Library. The novel's subplot exaggerates, only slightly, the true absurdity of the presidential pyramid.

"My book The Other Rodeo came to be because I was compelled, by the wonderful diversity I discovered, to follow offbeat rodeos around, photographing and interviewing the men and women who rope and ride in them. It was like visiting a different country each weekend as I'd travel around in my 1973 Vega, going from, say, a black rodeo outside of Houston to an Apache fair and rodeo in the Whiteriver Mountains of Arizona, or from the finals of the women's rodeo in San Antonio to a charreada or Mexican rodeo across town the next day.

"I would truly step from one distinct culture into another completely different one. Take injuries for example. Women's and youth rodeos were the closest to the Anglo mainstream and they attempted to emulate their heroes in the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) by pretending stoic indifference when they were piledriven off the back of a bucking horse onto the arena floor. At black rodeos on the other hand, injuries were a truly dramatic event with contestants rolling on the earth and calling on the Lord and their mommas to provide succor with the audience hooting in the background. When an Indian rider was hurt, half the grandstands would empty out as clan members rushed to his aid.

"All in all, The Other Rodeos became a sort of obsession that continues to haunt me. I'm still trying to track down rumors of a nude rodeo in California. Sort of brings new meaning to the term bareback riding, doesn't it?"



Booklist, May 15, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of The Yokota Officers Club, p. 1729; January 1, 2002, review of The Yokota Officers Club, p. 763; May 1, 2006, Elizabeth Dickie, review of The Flamenco Academy, p. 69.

Dallas Morning News, August 2, 2006, Jerome Weeks, "Authors Need Flair for Self-Promotion."

Detroit Free Press, June 15, 2001, Susan Hall-Balduf, review of The Yokota Officers Club.

Entertainment Weekly, June 12, 1992, review of The Mommy Club, p. 52; September 10, 1993, Kate Wilson, review of Virgin of the Rodeo, p. 62.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of The Flamenco Academy, p. 476.

Kliatt, July, 2003, review of The Yokota Officers Club, p. 5.

Library Journal, April 1, 2001, Beth E. Andersen, review of The Yokota Officers Club, p. 131; June 15, 2006, Andrea Wyman, review of The Flamenco Academy, p. 55.

Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1983, Kristiana Gregory, review of Do Evil Cheerfully, p. 8.

Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1991, review of The Mommy Club, p. 71; July 5, 1993, review of Virgin of the Rodeo, p. 61; June 18, 2001, review of The Yokota Officers Club, p. 58; April 3, 2006, review of The Flamenco Academy, p. 36.

School Library Journal, October, 2001, Lynn Nutwell, review of The Yokota Officers Club, p. 194.

State (Columbia, SC), September 13, 2006, Claudia Smith Brinson, review of The Flamenco Academy.

Texas Monthly, June, 2006, Mike Shea, review of The Flamenco Academy, p. 50.

ONLINE, (December 24, 2006), interview with Sarah Bird.