I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird

A Daughter's Memoir

Susan Cerulean

Photographs by David Moynahan

Title Details

Pages: 176

Illustrations: 20 b&w photographs

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 05/01/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6256-4

List Price: $20.95


Pub Date: 08/01/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5737-9

List Price: $25.95


Pub Date: 08/01/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5738-6

List Price: $20.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Wormsloe Foundation Nature Books

I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird

A Daughter's Memoir

Susan Cerulean

Photographs by David Moynahan

A memoir that explores the poignant parallels between natural and human life

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

Susan Cerulean’s memoir trains a naturalist’s eye and a daughter’s heart on the lingering death of a beloved parent from dementia. At the same time, the book explores an activist’s lifelong search to be of service to the embattled natural world. During the years she cared for her father, Cerulean also volunteered as a steward of wild shorebirds along the Florida coast. Her territory was a tiny island just south of the Apalachicola bridge where she located and protected nesting shorebirds, including least terns and American oystercatchers. I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird weaves together intimate facets of adult caregiving and the consolation of nature, detailing Cerulean’s experiences of tending to both.

The natural world is the “sustaining body” into which we are born. In similar ways, we face not only a crisis in numbers of people diagnosed with dementia but also the crisis of the human-caused degradation of the planet itself, a type of cultural dementia. With I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird, Cerulean reminds us of the loving, necessary toil of tending to one place, one bird, one being at a time.

A beautiful and significant book. I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird offers a lament for the precious things that have passed, an elegy for the fragile beauty that remains,and a recognition of the inseparable Nature of all living things. With compassion, keen insights, and elegant prose, Susan Cerulean celebrates our inherent and intractable relationship with the natural world and explores the strange paradox of humanity's disconnections.

—Joe Hutto, award-winning author of Illumination in the Flatwoods, The Light in High Places, and Touching the Wild

With astonishing grace, insight, and power, Susan Cerulean has written a memoir of such delicate balance and wisdom that it will forever have a hallowed place on your bookshelf. Daughter, wife, environmentalist, explorer, caretaker of humans and seashores, Cerulean offers vital truths just when we need them most.

—Connie May Fowler, author of A Million Fragile Bones

'Our task is to watch over the world with such care,?' writes Susan Cerulean, and she does exactly this with each beautiful sentence of this wise and prescient book. She also lovingly acts and responds to her father living with dementia and as a steward to shorebirds she knows intimately by name on the coast of Florida. I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird is an elegant memoir of devotion and imagination inviting us with graceful determination to extend our compassion and sense of family to all species on this beautiful, broken planet we call home. This book is an awakening.

—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Erosion: Essays of Undoing

I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written tribute to a beloved father and unique window into the life and career of a conservationist I have long admired. Sue brings her characteristic grace and humanity to the entire story, whether she is writing about her father’s long decline or the challenges of conservation in the face of Florida’s relentless growth.

—Julie Wraithmell, executive director, Audubon Florida

Poignant. . . . In these pages, you’ll find courage and strength comes from living with this planet, not on it.

—Saundra Kelley, Tallahassee Democrat

Anyone who has walked a loved one along the meandering descent dictated by dementia or who is attuned enough to the outdoors to be able to distinguish among a plover, a sandpiper and a killdeer will find . . . Susan Cerulean’s latest book, I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird, to be an affecting and, in some ways, disturbing work.

—Steve Bornhoft, Tallahassee Magazine

In her tender and wise memoir chronicling both her end-of-life care for her octogenarian father and her stewardship of seabirds on an isolated Florida island, Susan Cerulean brings to the fore the responsibilities and rewards of bearing witness to and advocating for delicate lives in transition. . . . I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird is both elegy and call to action, a beautiful remembrance of a life now gone from this earth and an impassioned plea to serve as caregivers to that same earth and its myriad creatures.

—Jonathan Haupt, Southern Review of Books

Susan Cerulean is known for deftly weaving connections between the scientific and personal. In her latest work, I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird: A Daughter’s Memoir, she does it with an almost magical mastery.

—Kathleen Laufenberg, Tallahassee Democrat

Cerulean's voice is a clarion call for us to pay excruciating attention to the world around us.

—Trish MacEnulty, Tallahassee Democrat


Sarton Book Award (Memoir), Women's Story Circle Network

About the Author/Editor

SUSAN CERULEAN is a writer, naturalist, and advocate based in Tallahassee, Florida. She has written and edited many books, including gold medal Florida Book Award winner Coming to Pass: Florida’s Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change, and her nature memoir, Tracking Desire: A Journey after Swallow-tailed Kites (both Georgia), that was named and Editor’s Choice title by Audubon magazine. I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird: A Daughter’s Memoir (also Georgia) is her most recent work.