The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

'Born strange,' and a remarkable 25-year friendship with a puckish parrot

Tuco is a mischievous, multi-talented African grey parrot with a diabolical sense of humour, who served as a personal guru for writer Brian Brett during their 25-year relationship. Brett recently won a BC Book Prize for his memoir, Tuco: The Parrot, the Others and a Scattershot World.
"When you have a different bird in there, the other birds will stalk it and kill it," says Brian Brett. Brett was born with a hormonal condition that left him biologically androgynous. He says his experiences have led him on a lifelong exploration of what it means to be an Other. (Submitted by Brian Brett)

Originally published on June 03, 2016.

Brian Brett says he was born strange. He has Kallman's syndrome, a hormonal condition that left him biologically androgynous.

That set him off on a lifelong exploration of what it means to be Other. People who look unusual. Outsiders and outliers. And non-human creatures.

The doctor said to my mother, you're going to have to do something about that child...because I was clearly 'wrong' at birth. - Brian Brett

For 25 years, he made that journey into the heart of otherness with an African grey parrot called Tuco, named after the ornery, but comical bandit in the spaghetti western "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". Tuco the parrot is by turns puckish, obstreperous, demanding, hilarious, profane, loyal and cantankerous. He became Brett's companion and spirit guide.

Brian Brett is a poet and journalist and one of Canada's best writers of memoirs. His twelve books include Trauma Farm, which won the 2009 Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction in Canada. 

We sort of almost emotionally and mentally morphed into each other. And so there was a real kind of bonding that actually might have been more interesting than a bonding between two different humans.- Brian Brett, on his relationship with his parrot Tuco

He spoke to Michael Enright about growing up as a "parrot among crows," androgyny and human-animal relationships.

On May 3, 2016, it was announced that Tuco: The Parrot, the Others, and A Scattershot World had won the BC Book Prize for non-fiction. It's published by Greystone Books.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full conversation.


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