The University of Texas at Austin
  • Michener Grad’s Debut Among Year’s Best

    Published: Dec. 11, 2012

    Kevin Powers, MFA ’12, has written one of the best books of the year, according to The New York Times and The Guardian, the British national daily newspaper that gave Powers its Guardian First Book Award. The prize, awarded in late November, is the latest of several accolades for “The Yellow Birds,” Powers’ debut novel about two young soldiers in the Iraq War.

    Kevin Powers

    Kevin Powers at the J. Frank Dobie House, the home of the university’s Michener Center for Writers. Photo: Marsha Miller

    “It’s really quite incredible,” Powers said in an interview with The Guardian. “I think back to the long hours I spent writing this book by myself, wondering if anybody would read it or have any interest in it. So to have this kind of affirmation is really incredible.”

    “The Yellow Birds” was also a National Book Award finalist.

    In its “10 Best Books of 2012” list, The New York Times writes,

    “A veteran of the Iraq war, Powers places that conflict at the center of his impressionistic first novel, about the connected but diverging fates of two young soldiers and the trouble one of them has readjusting to life at home. Reflecting the chaos of war, the fractured narrative jumps around in time and location, but Powers anchors it with crystalline prose and a driving mystery: How did the narrator’s friend die?”

    Powers returned to school — first to Virginia Commonwealth University, and then to the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin — after completing his military service. He wanted to pursue a childhood dream.

    The Yellow Birds book cover

    “Growing up, when I was young, as a teenager, reading and writing was really important to me,” he told The Guardian. “I’ve been writing poetry and stories since I was 13, but it never occurred to me that it was something someone like me could actually do. One of the things my service in Iraq did give me was this freedom from fear of failure…or any kind of expectation that I had to take a standard path.”

    Michener Center Director James Magnuson read swatches of Powers’ novel in a fiction workshop during Powers’ first year in the program. “The battle scenes were so intense and poetic. I knew there was something really special going on,” he said in a May 2012 article about Powers in KNOW.

    “I hope that when people read it, they will feel that they’ve had an experience that they might not have otherwise,” Powers said in the KNOW article. “The stories of the men and women who fight our wars are often — I believe — seen in our culture as incomprehensible, that if you haven’t been there you can’t understand. I don’t know if I agree with that notion.”

    • Quote 2
      Richard Weisskopf said on Dec. 28, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.
      Terrific Kevin! I'm looking forward to the book - I can't wait to read it.
    • Quote 2
      Floyd McCreight said on Dec. 23, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
      As a Navy veteran during the cold war and just before Viet Nam escalated, I never was really "in Harm’s Way." So I will definitely read this book to better know and appreciate what our troops have gone through. I hope it will be enlightening!
    • Quote 2
      Margie S. Alford said on Dec. 15, 2012 at 8:38 a.m.
      what an honor! I hope we'll have an opportunity to hear him, and buy the book. thank you for your publication, too. m.S. Alford
    • Quote 2
      Veronica kumpf said on Dec. 14, 2012 at 5:42 p.m.
      Congratulations Kevin!!
    • Quote 2
      Maria Patino said on Dec. 14, 2012 at 3:05 p.m.
      This looks great! Congratulations! I look forward to reading the book!
    • Quote 2
      Rudy said on Dec. 14, 2012 at 7:46 a.m.
      Congratulations! Thank you for serving our great nation. Can't wait to read the book as well. Thanks for sharing your stories.
    • Quote 2
      Addie Alexander said on Dec. 13, 2012 at 1:42 p.m.
      Beautifully written. A story of war told through the lens of a poet.
    • Quote 2
      LonghornFan said on Dec. 13, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.
      Wow! Congratulations! Nice to see something besides athletics getting noticed. Can't wait to read the book.
    • Quote 2
      Mary Bock said on Dec. 13, 2012 at 8:44 a.m.
      Congratulations! This is a terrific honor.
    Share:
    • Digg
    • del.icio.us
    • StumbleUpon
    • Facebook
    • Google Bookmarks
    • LinkedIn
    • Twitter
    • Print
    • email

    Related Topics

    , , , ,