Draw Your Weapons

Draw Your Weapons


by Sarah Sentilles
JUL 2017

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Extent: 320pp
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781911231141
Rights: UK & Comm, excl. Can: Text Publishing

Read an extract on LitHub

‘How to live in the face of so much suffering? What difference can one person make in this beautiful, imperfect, and imperilled world?’

In Draw Your Weapons, Sarah Sentilles offers an impassioned defence of life lived by peace and principle. Through a dazzling combination of memoir, history, reporting, visual culture, literature and theology, Sentilles tells the true stories of a conscientious objector during World War II and a former prison guard at Abu Ghraib. In the process she challenges conventional thinking about how violence is waged, witnessed and resisted.

Draw Your Weapons stirs and confronts, disturbs and illuminates. 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.

Sarah Sentilles digs into our world's most brutal and profound instincts with critic and writer Maria Tumarkin. Across four books, and the striking Drone Alerts project, Sentilles has plumbed questions of spirituality and absolution, life and death. In 'Draw Your Weapons', Sentilles turns her eye to art and war; metaphor and survival.


ABR, Open Page 
Signature interview
Signature comic
Nine to Noon Radio
ABC Radio, Conversations 
ABC Radio Adelaide, Afternoons (live from the Adelaide Festival) 
ABC Late Night Live 
ABC Radio National, Breakfast 
Saturday Paper 


Inside Story 
New York Times

Sydney Morning Herald


‘A unique and necessary book that makes a passionate, thought-stoking argument.’ John Jeremiah Sullivan

‘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

Draw Your Weapons is as much about peace as it is about war; it is as much about life as it is about death…You will be riveted, educated, implicated, and changed by this book.’ Emily Rapp

‘An intriguing meditation on violence, imagery and language.’ Ashleigh Wilson, Australian, Books of the Year 2017

‘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

‘Fearless, stirring, rhythmic, this book pulses with energy and is full of insights, dark yet ultimately hopeful.’ Nick Flynn

‘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

‘Sentilles delivers a learned, poetic, and interdisciplinary assessment of the ways in which the photographic image has been abused and weaponised, while also suggesting ways in which the arts can help serve as an antidote to this problem.’ Publishers Weekly

‘Sentilles, a would-be priest who dropped out of divinity school to pursue the study of art history searches for the role of art in an age of perennial warfare. She deftly and gently weaves together disparate topics—photography, Japanese internment, Abu Ghraib, sainthood, to name a few—so that I felt like an awakened genius at the close of each section.’ Lit Hub

‘In a culture where the arts are too often dismissed as frivolous, Sentilles’s work offers a robust and necessary retort, an important reminder that “the world is made and can be unmade”.’ Australian

‘Sentilles has examined these issues so closely, I am inescapably interested in her opinions. At the same time I also appreciate her answer to a student, who, reacting to one of the many photographs of war and violence that Sentilles shows her classes, asked, “But what are we supposed to do?” Sentilles responded: “I don’t know.”’ Saturday Paper

‘Though Sontag’s words—“No one…Not even pacifists”—fundamentally shape the book, and it proves nothing if not how pervasive and intractable the culture of war is, Draw Your Weapons left me feeling rather like Virginia Woolf. It is an impossibly heavy book to read, as even the beautiful in it is tainted by its root cause, but it is heavy because it is challenging and brilliant and fierce. Readers will carry that weight and be better for it.’ Rumpus

‘Sarah Sentilles’ Draw Your Weapons is one of the most erudite, original, and thought-provoking books I have ever read. A philosophical and moral meditation on pain, torture, and the violence of war—part memoir, part history, even a kind of secular prayer—this book asks us to look at terrible human darkness while also celebrating the ways in which love, connectedness, and the making of art nourish and redeem the human spirit.’ Australian Book Review

‘A masterpiece of understatement, allusion and wily composition.’ Michael McGirr, Sydney Morning Herald

‘A sincere and intelligent read.’ BMA Magazine

‘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, Best Books of 2017, Australian Book Review

‘A complex and original reaction to violence, warfare, and conscientious objection: I’m still thinking about it, still dipping back into it.’ Patrick Allington, Best Books of 2017, Australian Book Review

‘Sentilles mounts her argument with an accumulation of detail, employing metaphor rather than polemic. Her examination of drone warfare is especially powerful.’ Suzy Freeman-Greene, Best Books of 2017, Australian Book Review

‘Poetic and furious.’ Fiona Wright, Sydney Morning Herald’s Year in Reading

‘These are weighty subjects but the author’s touch is so light that I was barely conscious of reading…Sentilles does not belabour her points but her silences are impactful.’ Overland

‘Had I not been asked to review Sarah Sentilles’s Draw Your Weapons for these pages, I wouldn’t have read it; I would have skimmed the blurb and scoffed at its idealism. “What difference can one person make in this beautiful, imperfect, and imperilled world?” Sentilles asks. This of all years, I am mightily thankful I was challenged to confront that question, and form my own answer. Her book is a vital antidote to political despondency and a testament to the transformative power of art.’ Beejay Silcox, Australian, Books of the Year 2017

‘Sentilles's book is a challenging read full of snippets thoughts and reflections. It cuts between time place and character. Part memoir part exploration it avoids neatly-cut explanations or definitive conclusions it shows, suggests and probes...In an age consumed with its own reflection this is a timely work and I highly recommend it.’ Radio National, 2017’s Best Summer Reads

‘An intriguing meditation on violence, imagery and language.’ Ashleigh Wilson, Australian, Books of the Year 2017