The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers – Book Review

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Published by Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette

The war tried to kill us in the spring…. Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all the color from the plains…. It tried to kill us every day, but it had not succeeded. Not that our safety was preordained. We were not destined to survive. The fact is, we were not destined at all. The war would take what it could get. It was patient. -p. 3-4

Private John Bartle is physically back from Iraq, but his experiences there have left him missing something, a piece of his humanity. Private Bartle was stationed with his platoon in Ninevah province, an area where gains and losses seem almost cyclical, taking a step forward now only to take a step back in six months. While in Iraq, Bartle made it a mission to watch over a younger soldier, Private Daniel Murphy, a mission that will haunt him more than perhaps anything else he witnessed there.

I was not surprised by the cruelty of my ambivalence then. Nothing seemed more natural than someone getting killed…. We only pay attention to rare things, and death was not rare. -p. 11

The Yellow Birds is an incredibly affecting novel of the war in Iraq. Powers is himself an Iraqi war veteran, and the emotions he describes both of the time during the war and the time after coming home.

What would I say? “Hey, how are you?” they’d say. And I’d answer, “I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out and I can’t tell anyone what’s going on because everyone is so grateful to me all the time and I’ll feel like I’m ungrateful or something. Or like I’ll give away that I don’t deserve anyone’s gratitude and really they should all hate me for what I’ve done but everyone loves me for it and it’s driving me crazy.” Right. -p. 144

Although it is a physically slight novel, The Yellow Birds is hugely powerful. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how war affects our soldiers and I would not be surprised to find it as required reading by the time my children are in high school, despite some strong language., perhaps even replacing All Quiet on the Western Front.

Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Sisters in War by Christina Asquith – Book Review

Sisters in War by Christina Asquith

One thing I don’t ever remember hearing the mainstream media talking about when the decision was made to invade Iraq in 2003 is what it would mean for the women and children of that country. In fact, to this day I have still not seen much explored about the lives of women in Iraq and whether they have improved or not since the war began – until I picked up Christina Asquith’s “Sisters in War.”

Asquith follows the stories of 4 different women from different backgrounds in Baghdad: Shia sisters Zia and Nunu; Heather, the white US Army reservist; and Manal, a devoutly Muslim feminist Arab-American aid worker. We begin following the sisters’ story before the invasion happens, and their hope for their future after Saddam is absolutely heart breaking.

I really don’t want to say too much about what these women experience. Obviously it is no secret what has been happening with the Iraq War (“Sisters in War” spans from 2003 to 2006), but it is something completely different to experience it through the eyes of these four women.

I was so completely invested in these women’s lives, I didn’t want to stop reading until I found out what happened to them! Asquith completely made all of them real to me. Of course they are real, but sometimes nonfiction writers don’t bring their subjects to life in the same way that authors of fiction do – not the case with “Sisters in War.” I also appreciated that Asquith did not include herself in the story she was telling. That seems to be quite the fad in narrative nonfiction right now and it often works quite well, but I think this story packed a much greater emotional punch for not including her, it read somewhat like a documentary, I felt as if I was simply a fly on the wall with all of these women.

Not always emotionally easy read, but endlessly compelling storytelling, great writing, and a fascinating subject make me highly recommend this book.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from the publisher via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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