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Contact & Location


Department of English

Physical Address:
Brink Hall 200
(208) 885-6156 phone
(208) 885-5944 fax

Mailing Address:
English Department
c/o University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1102
Moscow, Idaho

Kevin Powers

Kevin PowersAbout Kevin Powers

Kevin Powers joined the army at the age of seventeen, later serving a year as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005. After his honorable discharge, he enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. This is his first novel.

The Yellow Birds novelCalled the “All Quiet on the Western Front of America’s Arab wars” by Tom Wolfe, the critically acclaimed national bestseller The Yellow Birds (Back Bay Books; 4/30/13; $14.99) by Kevin Powers took 2012 by storm. One of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2012; a winner of the Guardian First Book Award, the PEN/ Hemingway Award, and Sue Kaufman Prize; and a finalist for the National Book Award, the Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, few first novels have received such a long list of impressive praise. But it is Powers’ haunting and powerful prose and brutally real portrayal of war and its aftermath that have mesmerized readers.

The Yellow Birds is a breathtaking account of friendship and loss. Twenty-one-year-old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city of Al Tafar, Iraq. In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger.

We all know that the costs of war are profound, but the vast sums and far-off places that are reported on the evening news fail to show us what acts of war do to the human heart. Luckily for us, Kevin Powers is not just a soldier, but a poet, and his portrait of this grinding decade-plus-long conflict has solidified his place among the canon of our greatest war chroniclers, Denis Johnson, Karl Marlantes, Tim O’Brien, Robert Stone, and Stephen Wright.

Praise for The Yellow Birds  by Kevin Powers

“Powers has channeled his experience into The Yellow Birds, a first novel as compact and powerful as a footlocker full of ammo. . . . Powers has something to say, something deeply moving about the frailty of man and the brutality of war, and we should all lean closer and listen.”  - Benjamin Percy, New York Times Book Review

“No satirical romp, The Yellow Birds is an elegiac, sober, and haunting coming-of-age war story.”  - Nate Rawlings, Time

The Yellow Birds . . . is the novel about the Iraq War that we have been waiting for—and needed—because it finally brings the experience of combat to us as visceral art, not just information. . . . What Powers achieves in his prose and storytelling is a sense of eternity haunting the margins of one’s own vision as you glimpse the book’s pages. . . . He’s written fiction that seems more real than the ‘real’ thing—in this case, nonfiction about the same subject—which is what art is supposed to do.”  - Doug Stanton, Daily Beast

“Powers’s brutal lyricism feels fresh because it recalls a mode so decisively eclipsed by the high-octane hyperrealism of so much contemporary writing about war. It is this tenacious lyric voice that sets his novel, heavy though it is with war’s silencing pain and shame, apart.”  - New Republic

“The first chapter demonstrates what Powers can do so well, and anthology editors should be fighting over the rights to excerpt it. . . . Powers moves gracefully between spare, factual description of the soldiers’ work to simple, hard-won reflections on the meaning of war. . . . A modest, affecting novel.”  - Ron Charles, Washington Post

“This debut novel is a powerful recounting of life on the front lines. . . . Devastating, compelling, heartbreaking, but also beautiful and poetic, this story will stay with you for a long time and should be required reading for every American.” - San Diego Union-Tribune

“How to tell a true war story if you’re more a poet than a novelist? Tell it as a poet would. Tell it as Kevin Powers does. Tell it as a poem.” - Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things Considered

The Yellow Birds does a superb job of balancing the impersonal (war) and the personal (us). . . . It is a wonderful book.” - San Francisco Chronicle

“Loaded with physical and psychological tensions,The Yellow Birds  is driven most powerfully by Powers’s poetic descriptions as he lays out the distinct emotional and geographical landscapes of the Iraq War. . . . The Yellow Birds offers a series of crisply described images that give life to the novel’s opening words—‘the war tried to kill us’—and sustain them until the story’s end.” - ZYZZYVA

“An intense debut. . . . The Yellow Birds hops through time disjointedly, effectively mirroring Bartle’s shaken sense of consciousness. . . . In Powers’s relatively sparse plot, he effectively shows how, for these soldiers, war isn’t hell. It’s purgatory.” - Entertainment Weekly

“The intimacy of Kevin Powers’s story uses the now banal horror of war as a backdrop for the poignant story of two boys in way over their heads. . . . In quiet, beautiful prose, Powers has painted an unforgettable portrait of so much that is wrong about the conduct of war and peace for soldiers.”- Seattle Times

“This powerful debut novel is written in clear, strong prose that shifts in time and deliberately fogs the facts, capturing the collision of camaraderie and violence.” - Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“There remains a need for testimony: a literary way to deliver the grand narrative of combat. This is precisely what Kevin Powers accomplishes in his poetic . . . debut novel.”  - Cleveland Plain Dealer