2023 Eugene Sledge Award winner for best Marine Corps memoir of the past three years
Kacy Tellessen is a grunt. After completing high school in rural Washington, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and began the hero's journey he imagined might parallel those epic tales he'd consumed throughout adolescence. But what Tellessen lived through -- from boot camp to the battlefield and home again -- had little in common with Homer's tales or Hollywood's depictions.
In his memoir, Tellessen offers a truer account of life as an infantryman: the complicated, conflicting, adrenaline-pumping, and traumatic experience of war. Though much of our country's fighting and dying is done by infantry members, few accounts detail the grunt experience with as much clarity and vulnerability as Freaks of a Feather.
Kacy was born in Spokane and raised in Spangle, Washington, a small farming community that clings to the edge of the Palouse. Kacy joined the Marine Corps infantry directly out of high school and deployed twice to Iraq as an Infantry machine gunner with Second Battalion, Third Marines from 2005-2009. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Zero-Dark-Thirty literary journal, as well as the SOFLETE website.
Praise for Freaks of a Feather:
"One of the very best grunt's eye perspectives on combat that I've ever read....Kacy Tellessen absolutely blew me away. Amazing writing, profound insights and an incredibly powerful story."
--Sebastian Junger, #1 NY Times Bestselling author of The Perfect Storm, A Death in Belmont, and Tribe
"Powerful prose, honest and humble. Only a Marine could write this. I’d be proud to have Kacy in my gun-team. Semper Fi."
--Johnnie Clark, author of the bestselling military classic Guns Up!
"As introspective as he is entertaining, Tellessen uses a captivating blend of muscular and minimalistic prose to give us an uncomfortably honest look at where courage and nature diverge. Freaks of a Feather immediately separates itself from the litany of exploitative military accounts by avoiding political grandstanding or vicarious violence in favor of a remarkably intimate and often heart-pounding narrative. Despite this being his debut, Tellessen is able to use the deft touch of a seasoned writer to relay his story in a way that feels universal and yet wholly personal. This book will stay at the front of my mind and my shelf for years to come."
--James Wade, Spur Award-winning author of All Things Left Wild and River, Sing Out
"Kacy Tellessen joined the Marines and went to war because he read The Iliad in high school. A writer of great heart and mind, Tellessen, in rich, crisp prose, provides both gripping war stories and the deep insights of a person who knows that literature helps us to live.”
--Rachel Toor, author and professor of creative writing
"Tellessen’s memoir opens at the cyclic rate and never lets up. Freaks of a Feather is a book that you’ll stick in your cargo pocket and never leave it more than one arm’s distance until you’ve read it cover-to-cover."
--Major Thomas Schueman, USMC infantry officer and English instructor at the Naval Academy
“Author Tim O’Brien’s discussion of “happening truth” and “story truth” is an incredibly important concept in the telling of war. But for me, even more valuable than O’Brien’s binary validation of “story truth” arising from the ashes of accuracy, is that built upon a foundation of brutal, honest, “happening truth.” That is what Kacy Tellessen accomplishes with Freaks of a Feather: A Marine Grunt’s Memoir and, if there is such a thing as literary justice, you will find his beautiful, brutal truth shelved alongside Sledge and Leckie and O’Brien.”
--Lieutenant Colonel Russell Worth Parker, USMC, retired
"Powerful. Poetic. Honest. You will not find a victim or a hero in these pages. Instead, you get a regular grunt’s view of the dangerous, tedious Iraq war without fanfare or histrionics. This is how you write a war memoir. A must read for military and civilian alike."
--Michael Ramos, Iraq vet, writer, and former editor at OAF Nation
"A Marine’s journey, honestly and eloquently depicted, realizing and accepting who he is through the means of the written word, the heroes within, tradition and expectations."
--Tyler James Carroll, combat veteran and co-founder of Dead Reckoning Collective
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