2013 Archive

"The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers

About the Book
The title of the book is derived from a traditional U.S. Army marching cadence or call-and-response marching song sung by military personnel when preparing for combat. In Kevin Powers’ powerful and touching novel, “The Yellow Birds,” the finality and futility of war comes to life. Innocence is lost, one way or another, and no one escapes.

In exquisite prose, Powers’ story is told through the eyes of 21-year-old Pvt. John Bartle, whose platoon is fighting a bloody battle to control the Iraq city of Al Tafar. Fighting next to him is Pvt. Daniel Murphy, an 18-year-old with little mental capacity to comprehend the violent world around him. In a careless moment, Bartle had made an impossible promise to Murphy’s mother to bring him back alive.

The Iraq War unfolds around their platoon in sudden bursts of chaos and death. Bartle tries to detach himself by drifting into the movement of the clouds; the play of light in an orchard and the rise of the setting sun; even though he knows there is no safe place in Iraq. In spite of Bartle’s efforts, Murphy is drawn into the shock of the brutality and suffering of war, takes it in and can’t let it go. Their ruthless sergeant badgers and dominates them, anything to keep them alert, smart and alive in the death-filled Iraqi landscape. In powerful scenes; the waiting, filth, fatigue and endless fear play out in Powers’ precise, graphic and evocative language.

Bartle’s story is about the responsibility - that is imposed and accepted - to survive. But when he comes home an internal war begins. He must explain what he saw, justify what he did to himself and face the blank stares of those who can’t begin to understand what it was like to be there.

About the Author
Kevin Powers served in the U.S. Army in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, where he was deployed as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. Born and raised in Virginia, he holds a Master of Fine Art from the University of Texas in Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. “The Yellow Birds” was a finalist for the National Book Award and received the 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction. Powers’ story of war captures the harsh reality and aftermath of combat and raises complex questions about the sanity of war. “The Yellow Birds” is being compared with Tim O’Brien’s classic story of war, “The Things They Carried.” This is his first novel.

2013 Calendar of Events

KICK-OFF: An Evening with Author Kevin Powers
Sunday, Aug. 25; 7 p.m.
East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road
Meet award-winning debut novelist and Iraq War veteran Kevin Powers as he discusses “The Yellow Birds,” answers questions and signs books.

MSU Academic Welcome featuring Author Kevin Powers
Monday, Aug. 26; 9 a.m-11 a.m.
Jack Breslin Student Events Center, MSU Campus
Author Kevin Powers will address incoming MSU freshman class at the MSU Academic Welcome.

Afternoon Coffee with Author Kevin Powers
Monday, Aug. 26; 4 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road
Author Kevin Powers will read selections from his book, "The Yellow Birds,” and answer audience questions. Coffee is provided by Biggby.

Boot Camp 101
Wednesday, Sept. 11; 6 p.m.
Demonstration Hall Field, MSU
Have you ever thought about the physical training that military recruits undergo to prepare for conflict? Would you like to see how your fitness compares? The MSU Army ROTC will host a demonstration for community members and students to understand key components of ROTC training, including hands-on physical training stations, an enter/clear building battle drill, equipment displays, a mock sleeping area and much more.

Writing Workshop led by MSU Professor Anita Skeen
Wednesdays, Sept. 11, 18, 25 ; 4-6 p.m. & 7-9 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road
This engaging writing workshop will include three weeks of creative writing and discussion, followed by a participant reading on Monday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in the RCAH Theater, C210 Snyder Hall, MSU Campus.

MSU Library Film Event: "Brothers" (R)
Thursday, Sept. 12; 7 p.m.
W499 Michigan State University Main Library, MSU Campus
A young man comforts his older brother's wife and children after his brother disappears in Afghanistan. The film stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman. Dr. Farha Z. Abbasi, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, will lead a discussion following the film. Abbasi is a recent recipient of the Emerging Progress Award.

East Lansing Public Library Film Night: "All Quiet on the Western Front" (UR)
Monday, Sept. 16; 7 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road
A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

"For the 25:" A Conversation with the Filmmakers
Tuesday, Sept. 17; 7 p.m.
Brody Hall, 241 W. Brody Road (room 112)
Join Michigan State University student filmmaker and former U.S. Marine Logan Stark. He will show clips from his documentary film "For the 25" and will reflect on his experiences as a soldier in Afghanistan. Stark will be joined by his fellow filmmakers and MSU professor. The film has received recent national attention from the Huffington Post, USA Today, Marine Corps Times and New York Times. Learn more.

The MSU Department of Theatre Presents "Widows"
Thursday, Sept. 19; 7:30 p.m.
MSU Auditorium, Arena Theatre
The production unfolds in a village where every man has disappeared during the reign of the former dictator and the women band together to defy the nation's military. Written by Ariel Dorfman and directed by Ann Folino White. A post-show discussion will take place following the performance. General admission is $10. The ticket office opens one hour prior to the show with doors opening 30 minutes prior. Learn more.

East Lansing Public Library Film Night: "Zero Dark Thirty" (R)
Monday, Sept. 23; 7 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.

Surviving in Conflict: Personal Reflections on Life in a War Zone
Tuesday, Sept. 24; 7 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road
"The Yellow Birds" tells the poignant story of an Army soldier fighting in the Middle East; but what about the other people in these countries of war? What about the people who see their homes destroyed and friends and family uprooted? The MSU Muslim Studies Program will present a panel of faculty, students and community members who will reflect on what life was like in a war zone. The discussion will be facilitated by Associate Professor of History Emine Evered.

From the Battlefield to the State House
Wednesday, Sept. 25; 6-7:30 p.m.
James Madison Library, Room 332
Michigan Representative David Knezek will talk with MSU students and community members about his service as a two-time Iraq War veteran. He will also discuss his journey to becoming the first Iraq War veteran elected to the Michigan House of Representatives

Other OBOC-Related Events:

Ride 2 Recovery: Great Lakes Challenge
Aug. 23-29
Ride 2 Recovery is produced by the Fitness Challenge, a (501C3) in partnership with the Military and VA Volunteer Service Office to benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country’s wounded veterans and healing heroes that features cycling as the core activity. The Great Lakes Challenge is a multi-day bicycle ride from Chicago to Detroit. Riders will depart at 9 a.m. for East Lansing on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

East Lansing Public Library Hosts Books on Tap
Tuesday, Sept. 10; 6:30-8 p.m.
Jimmy's Pub, 16804 Chandler Road
The East Lansing Public Library hosts a variety of book groups, including Books on Tap, which will discuss "The Yellow Birds" in September. Learn more.

East Lansing Public Library Hosts International Book Club
Thursday, Sept. 19; 7 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road
The East Lansing Public Library hosts a variety of book groups, including the International Book Club, which will discuss "The Yellow Birds" in September. Learn more.

“Military Transitions in Society”
UGS 101 - Section 311 (Fall 2013)
UGS 101 - Section 309 (Spring 2014)
The topics discussed in class are issues that pertain to transition from military to college life, including issues and challenges surrounding reintegration, role of government policies, differences between the culture of higher
education and the culture of the military, MSU and federal resources, etc.