Posts Tagged ‘The Yellow Birds’


Book lists, particularly those at the end of a year, always catch my attention. I usually read through and pick one or two titles to hand on to for future purchase; but I rarely keep the list as I have no mountain climbing ambition. This year I did something different; I copied out four lists before deciding four were more than enough.

They are “Jonathan Yardley’s favorite books,” and “The ten best books of 2014,” from The Washington Post. From The New York Times, they are “100 Notable Books of 2014,” and “Human Costs of the Forever Wars, Enough to Fill a Bookshelf,” the last list by Michiko Kakutani.

I know the article by Kakutani does not need my promotion; however, I want to comment on it anyway. It is a thoughtful look at how we are recording for our understanding and memory the wars of our own making in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars need our attention and wise response as much as does the battered environment; and we seem to be as lost in one confrontation as in the other.

I was surprised to find I have read only two titles Kakutani writes about: Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds, and Brian Turner’s My Life as a Foreign Country; both of which are sure to bring your emotions to the surface. These two books should be in every public library in America; and I am confident they are not the only books in his list that should be tagged as such.

I do not doubt there are other books fully deserving of being listed in the article. Our country should act this coming year to completely choke off the bloody creation of new authors. There are already too many at work and in the development stage. Enough is enough.

As I write this the day before my local Christmas Bird Count, I must mention the only birding book from the Forever Wars, Jonathan Trouern-Trend’s Birding Babylon: A Soldier’s Journal from Iraq. Just now I looked up from my desk to see outside a Pileated Woodpecker tearing a hole in a hemlock looking for a mid-afternoon meal. If we don’t kill or maim life, it seems to work well. Charles Marlin

Image by Zoriah Miller at zoriah.com


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yellow birds

Three young Americans serve honorably in Al Tafar, Iraq, in an unholy war that either destroys or breaks their will to live.  Though you fully understand this is a novel, you will feel as you read that parts and the whole of each of them has lived in many men who have served in the Gulf Wars.  The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers, is best read privately for you will shed tears for these men.  Short, the book is an intense experience.

The author gives no smug comfort to the reader, no patriotic catch phrases to make us proud of our country.  The reader is left to answer the questions of why and at what cost do we enter war.  The author leaves no room for flag waving, and yet every word is deeply American.

The Blue Ridge Mountains image honors the one still moment in the book; even so you know at that moment, the weather is ever-changing.

Salute the truth, known and hidden.  Charles Marlin

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