American War by Omar El Akkad – Rochester Reads 2019

Writers & Books announces American War by Omar El Akkad as the selection for the 2019 Rochester Reads program. El Akkad will be in residence doing readings, book signings, and other appearances at local libraries, colleges, and senior centers in Rochester and throughout the region March 26 through March 29, 2019.

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.

Copies of American War are on sale at Writers & Books for $16.95. Contact Karen vanMeenen for more information (

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Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt, and grew up in Doha, Qatar, before moving to Canada with his family. As a reporter, he covered many of the most important global stories of the last decade including the NATO-led war in Afghanistan; the military trials at Guatànamo Bay, Cuba; the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt; and the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

A graduate of Queen’s University in Ontario, Omar is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting for his coverage of the “Toronto 18” terrorism arrests. He also won the Edward Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, and has been nominated for several (Canadian) National Magazine Awards. His first novel, American War, was a New York Times Notable Book; was listed as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, GQ, Esquire, The Guardian, The Austin Chronicle, PopSugar, and Paste Magazine; and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Links of interest:

Penguin Random House “Meet the Author” video:

NPR: Tribes & Traitors: What Happens When You Empathize with the Enemy?

For more information, visit


For more information on the Rochester Reads program, contact Community Reads Coordinator, Karen vanMeenen, at