This year’s Rochester Reads selection is American War by Omar El Akkad. American War is a powerful and surprisingly prescient novel about a second US Civil War in the late 21st century. After climate change led to political upheaval and a decimation of the population, a plague is unleashed and further devastates the country’s population. One family is caught in the middle of the divided regions and conflicted alliances and the effects of this fractured country on a young girl has consequences for generations.
The protagonist of American War, Sarat Chestnut, is six years old when the Second American Civil War breaks out in the year 2074. Fossil fuels have been outlawed, half the coastal areas of the US are under water, and drones are common sights in the sky above. After her father is killed, Sarat and her family are forced into a camp for displaced persons. It is in Camp Patience where Sarat is befriended by a mysterious older man and turned into a weapon of war herself.
This is a narrative that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself. It is a story of ruin, of revenge, of division—but also a lesson in empathy and the ties that can either bind or break us.
Please join us at noon on Wednesday, February 6, on the 4th floor of the LeRoy V. Good Library on the Brighton campus for a discussion of this powerful novel. Librarian Andrea Kingston will lead the discussion.