Nominated by:

Calgary Public Library, Canada

Ottawa Public Library, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Picador, UK

McClelland & Stewart, Canada

American War

Omar El Akkad    

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war as one of the Miraculous Generation and now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past — his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

About the author

Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar until he moved to Canada with his family. He is an award-winning journalist and author who has travelled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantànamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

(from publisher)

Librarians’ comments:

A griping debut novel from an award-winning journalist that imagines a bleak and savage no-so-distant future. Amid the geo-political scaffolding of an American Civil War that has broken out over fossil fuels, El Akkad leaves lots of room for human-scale storytelling.

American War disturbs and provokes the reader out of any complacency. Set in the 22nd century, the dystopic threats of today and some realities transplanted from other parts of the world, (displaced persons, plagues, climate change, and the cultivation of terrorists), infuse the novel. Eerie, with echoes of historical grievances, this novel is tightly written with the tension and repression it creates so well, challenging us to look more closely and compassionately at our world, its inhabitants, and current geopolitical dilemmas.

Related Entries