Brian Van Reet

“The Chaff”

Winner of the 2016 Texas Institute of Letters Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story. Named a Distinguished Story in The Best American Short Stories 2016Second Prize winner of the 2014 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award. Published in the Iowa Review Spring 2015 issue.


A fever dream of men at arms and the confusion, desperation, and comedy that inform every moment a platoon leaves the wire. This story has a big beating heart and is not ashamed to speak of the long costs of war.

  • Anthony Swofford

An outstanding portrayal of the life-and-death hostilities and moral quandaries faced by American soldiers serving in Iraq. On the outskirts of Mosul, the narrator’s platoon discovers a broken-down antiaircraft gun and a buried ammo dump in the middle of a vast wheat field owned by a friendly farmer named Salah… In Brian Van Reet’s expert hands, this wheat field becomes a heartbreaking paradox, an act of separating the wheat from the chaff, and destroying a country in order to save it.

  • Thomas Zigal