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


ONE OF THE BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF 2017 (Chicago Review of Books)

A 2017 BOOK OF THE YEAR (Australian Book Review



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?



"A formally elegant and intellectually rigorous argument for peace . . . Sentilles’ book inspires us to be more than we are, to live beyond our historical moment. Not a call to arms so much as a call to the writers’ pen."

Geordie Williamson, Australian Book Review



John Williams, The New York Times


"Sentilles’s writing is pressurized and poetic, possessing the sheen of glass made from airstruck sand."

Hunter Braithwaite, Guernica 


"An unexpected marvel."

—Beejay Silcox, Australian Book Review


"[Draw Your Weapons] is an impossibly heavy book to read . . . but it is heavy because it is challenging and brilliant and fierce. Readers will carry that weight and be better for it."

Bradley Babendir, The Rumpus


"[P]ainful to read, hard to put down, and impossible to forget . . . 'How to respond to violence that feels as if it can't be stopped?' The first thing we must do, this astonishing book suggests, is not look away.'"

Stacey D'Erasmo, O Magazine


“These essays may comprise the most poetic narrative I’ve read this year, which is to say it scorches and sings; it permeates the sleeping mind.”

—Abby E. Murray, Military Spouse Book Review


"Draw Your Weapons is one of the most erudite, original, and thought-provoking books I have ever read."

Bernadette Brennan, Australian Book Review


"[Sentilles] deftly and gently weaves together disparate topicsphotography, Japanese internment, Abu Ghraib, sainthood, to name a fewso that I felt like an awakened genius at the close of each section."

Emily Firetog, LitHub


"[Sentilles] delivers a learned, poetic, and interdisciplinary assessment of the ways in which the photographic image has been abused and weaponized, while also suggesting ways in which the arts can help serve as an antidote to this problem"

Publishers Weekly


“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