• Birth—July 11, 1980
• Where—Richmond, Virginia, USA
• Education—B.A., Virginia Commonwealth University;
M.F.A., University of Texas-Austin
• Awards—Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award (see below)
• Currently—lives in Florence, Italy (as of December, 2012)
Kevin Powers is an American fiction writer, poet, and Iraq War veteran. He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, the son of a factory worker and a postman, and enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of seventeen. Six years later, in 2004, he served a one-year tour in Iraq as a machine gunner assigned to an engineer unit.
Powers' first novel The Yellow Birds, which drew on his experiences in the Iraq War, garnered a lucrative advance from publisher Little, Brown. It has been called "a classic of contemporary war fiction""by the New York Times. Michiko Kakutani, book critic for the Times, subsequently named the novel one of her 10 favorite books of 2012. KakutaniW wrote, "At once a freshly imagined bildungsroman and a metaphysical parable about the loss of innocence and the uses of memory, it’s a novel that will stand with Tim O’Brien’s enduring Vietnam book, The Things They Carried, as a classic of contemporary war fiction."
In an interview, Powers explained to the Guardian newspaper why he wrote the book
One of the reasons that I wrote this book was the idea that people kept saying, "What was it like over there?" It seemed that it was not an information-based problem. There was lots of information around. But what people really wanted was to know what it felt like; physically, emotionally and psychologically. So that's why I wrote it.
Asked about what he felt was the best book of 2012, writer Dave Eggers said this to the Observer:
There are a bunch of books I could mention, but the book I find myself pushing on people more than any other is The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. The author fought in Iraq with the US army, and then, many years later, this gorgeous novel emerged. Next to The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, it's the best thing I've read about the war in Iraq, and by far the best novel. Powers is a poet first, so the book is spare, incredibly precise, unimproveable. And it's easily the saddest book I've read in many years. But sad in an important way.
Not all critics were so laudatory of The Yellow Birds, however. Ron Charles of the Washington Post wrote that "frankly, the parts of The Yellow Birds are better than the whole. Some chapters lack sufficient power, others labor under the influence of classic war stories, rather than arising organically from the author’s unique vision." Michael Larson of Salon argues that the book is ruined by "boggy lyricism... There’s never a sky not worthy of a few adjectives." And Theo Tait of the London Review of Books argued that the book "labours under the weight of a massive Hemingway crush.... a trainwreck, from the first inept and imprecise simile, to the tin-eared rhythms, to the final incoherent thought."
Recognition and Awards
Winner - Guardian First Book Award, 2012
Finalist - National Book Award (Fiction), 2012
Finalist - Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, 2012
Winner - Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, 2013
As of December, 2012, Powers lives in Florence, Italy where his wife is in graduate studieds for fashion design.
(Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/20/2013.)
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