A single book might not change the world. But this utterly original meditation on art and war might transform the way you see the world—and that makes all the difference.
“How to live in the face of so much suffering? What difference can one person make in this beautiful, imperfect, and imperiled world?”
Through a dazzling combination of memoir, history, reporting, visual culture, literature, and theology, Sarah Sentilles offers an impassioned defense of life lived by peace and principle. It is a literary collage with an urgent hope at its core: that art might offer tools for remaking the world.
In Draw Your Weapons, Sentilles tells the true stories of Howard, a conscientious objector during World War II, and Miles, a former prison guard at Abu Ghraib, and in the process she challenges conventional thinking about how war is waged, witnessed, and resisted. The pacifist and the soldier both create art in response to war: Howard builds a violin; Miles paints portraits of detainees. With echoes of Susan Sontag and Maggie Nelson, she investigates images of violence from the era of slavery to the drone age. In doing so, Sentilles wrestles with some of our most profound questions: What does it take to inspire compassion? What impact can one person have? How should we respond to violence when it feels like it can’t be stopped?
Draw Your Weapons stirs and confronts, disturbs and illuminates. A single book might not change the world, but this lucid, radiant, and utterly original meditation on art and war might transform the way you see the world—and that makes all the difference.
Advance praise for Draw Your Weapons
“With a stunning weave of ideas and images, Sarah Sentilles shows us the world we’ve broken, and she shows us how soldiers, prisoners, artists, thinkers—all of us—are, piece by piece, repairing it. Fearless, stirring, rhythmic, this book pulses with energy and is full of insights, dark yet ultimately hopeful.”—Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“Draw Your Weapons is as much about peace as it is about war; it is as much about life as it is about death. Sarah Sentilles, with her passionate, clear-eyed prose and her brilliant, generous mind, confronts us with the realities of standing idly by in a world that urgently needs voices of peace and reconciliation. She puts real faces on the stories we hear all the time in the news and forget about. The stories in this book—about violence and love and endurance and vulnerability—are unforgettable, and they are very much the stories of our time. You will be riveted, educated, implicated, and changed by this book.”—Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World
“This is a beautiful, harrowing, and moving collage that portrays the making of art as a powerful response to making war. Every reader will feel profoundly changed by it.”—Alice Elliott Dark, author of In the Gloaming