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Above the East China Sea book cover

First published: 2014

Publisher: Knopf

Length: 400 pages

Above the East China Sea

A deeply moving account of family, friendship, and love that transcends time.

Above the East China Sea tells the entwined stories of two teenaged girls, an American and an Okinawan, whose lives are connected across 70 years by the shared experience of profound loss, the enduring strength of an ancient culture, and the redeeming power of family love.


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, an Okinawan trapped in the unendurable horrors of World War II’s invasion of Okinawa, the promise of peace. Seventy years later, Luz James, an unmoored Air Force brat tracks down the story of her Okinawan grandmother. The magical island reveals that if she surrenders to the most unbratlike impulse and allows herself to connect completely with a place and its people, the ancestral spirits might 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 China, Japan, and the U.S., 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.

A Book of the Year, Seattle Times

ALEX Award Nominee, American Library Association

Dublin International Literary Award Nominee

Novel of the Year, Texas Philosophical Society

Sarah Bird's books stacked

Above the East China Sea

“…the finest living Texas novelist…showcases all of her gifts in spades…her unmistakable voice displays warmth, wit, and that rare variety of irreverence that possesses real heart.”

Texas Observer

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