Now more than ever, the world needs a book like Draw Your Weapons.
With mastery, urgency, and great courage, Sarah Sentilles investigates the histories of art, violence, war, and human survival. In her haunting and absorbing narrative, the act of storytelling, itself, becomes a matter of life and death.
— Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being


On Sale July 2017

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?”

Draw Your Weapons is a reading experience like no other. 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 from 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 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?



“It’s not often that a book’s description can double as its blurb, but ‘A would-be priest decided not to become one and instead wrote a book on how art and metaphor condition us to accept violence’ comes damn close. Draw Your Weapons is a unique and necessary book that makes a passionate, thought-stoking argument.”

John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead


A stunning weave of ideas and images. Sentilles shows us the world we’ve broken alongside how soldiers, prisoners, artists, thinkers—all of us—are, piece-by-piece, repairing it. Fearless, stirring, rhythmic, Draw Your Weapons 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 by in a world that urgently needs the voices of peace and reconciliation. She puts real faces and lives on the stories we hear all the time on 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 so, 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


A beautiful, haunting book so original that it is a genre unto itself—a poem, a sermon, a polemic, a memoir, a narrative . . . I won’t be able to think of our era of constant conflict without recalling Sentilles’s lessons, her imagery, and her prophetic voice.”

Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World


"Draw Your Weapons is a beautiful, harrowing, and moving collage that portrays the making of art as a powerful response to making war. This is a brave and necessary book by a person of conscience. Every reader will feel profoundly changed by it."

Alice Dark, author of In the Gloaming