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Joe Wilkins, 2009 Award Winner

Joe Wilkins was born and raised north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana. He  lives now with his family in western Oregon, where he directs the creative writing program at Linfield University and is a member of the low-residency MFA faculty at Eastern Oregon University. 


His recent novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, was praised as “remarkable and unforgettable” in a starred review at Booklist. Fall Back Down When I Die won the 2020 High Plains Book Award and has been translated into French, Spanish, and Italian.


Wilkins is also the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, and is the winner of a 2014 GLCA New Writers Award—an honor that has previously recognized early work by the likes of Richard Ford, Louise Erdrich, and Alice Munro.


He has published four collections of poetry, including most recently Thieve and When We Were Birds, winner of the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. Wilkins's individual stories, essays, and poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Harvard Review, The Southern Review, Orion, The Sun, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Magazine Writing.

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Excerpts from reviews of The Mountain and the Fathers:

"Joe Wilkins writes his truths straight from the broken heart of a broken land. When I read his personal stories, so lyrically and wondrously imagined, I feel a beautiful and sometimes terrifying emotion rise up in me — mythic, redemptive, and sustaining. If you want to read what matters, read this."
—Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

"Joe Wilkins' sketches of life in Montana's Big Dry country, north of Billings and halfway to nowhere, are filled with a potent combination of loving poetry and bitter nostalgia. You can smell the sage and wild onions and feel how this land apart forms and twists those who live there, and sometimes kills them. Wilkins' search for his father — and for himself--takes its own twist: the Big Dry may care nothing for pilgrims and father seekers, but it marks its own as surely as a father marks a son."
— John N. Maclean

"Joe Wilkins grew up on the enormous plains of eastern Montana. He found plenty to respect and revere and plenty to escape. And he learned the stories and how to tell them. "The Mountain and the Fathers" is vivid and compelling. We're reading it in Montana in order to understand ourselves. And for the pure pleasure we find in the storytelling."

—William Kittredge 

"Joe Wilkins grew up hard in the middle of nowhere — the bent-back, make-do world of the driest, loneliest country in all Montana--and after reading this memoir about the West, about myth, about manhood, about grief and transcendence, I felt at once heartbroken and hopeful and ultimately awed by his ability to twist sentences like barbed wire, his voice wondrously rich with dirt-and-gravel poetry."

— Benjamin Percy, author of "The Wilding"

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