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American War: Start Here

A guide to further reading and research on topics related to the 2018 Honors Common Book.

About This Guide

Welcome! This guide provides resources for readers of the 2018 Honors College Common Book, American War by Omar El Akkad. Find information about the author, his career in journalism, and interviews with him here on the main page. The climate change and the environment and war and refugees pages provide starting points to learn more about these topics, links to library resources for news and policy, and databases and journals for more in-depth research. The dystopias and climate fiction page provides links to background reading on these genres, suggested titles in different subgenres, and links to more lists of recommended reading.

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The cover of the novel American War"I never intended to write a book about America or war; I intended to write a book about the universality of revenge. I wanted to explore the idea that when people are broken by war, broken by injustice, broken by mistreatment, they become broken in the same way." 

Read the interview with the author on Bookpage.

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, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike. 

Author photo of Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in the Middle East before moving to Canada. In a ten-year career as a reporter, he covered stories across the planet — from the war in Afghanistan to the military trials in Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Omar is a recipient of the National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting for his coverage of the “Toronto 18” terrorism arrests. He has also won the Edward Goff Penny Memorial Prize for young Canadian journalists, and has been nominated for several National Magazine Awards. He is a graduate of Queen’s University. American War is his first novel.

Author photo by Michael Lionsgate.


The "Toronto 18" terrorist arrests

In June 2006, Canadian authorities conducted counter-terrorism raids in and around Toronto in response to intelligence about a planned series of terrorist attacks, arresting 14 men and 4 minors. Omar El Akkad's reporting explores the trajectories that led to the conspirators' radicalization, the conflicts and tensions experienced by Muslims in Canada, and the relationship between the Canadian Muslim community and Canadian law enforcement. El Akkad earned a National Newspaper Award in 2006 for his work on the Toronto 18.

Additional Reporting

El Akkad's other reporting covers topics that range from climate change to popular culture to Guantanamo Bay. In addition to the links below, you can explore more of El Akkad's writing in ProQuest Newspapers.

"There is no such thing as a foreign kind of suffering."

Omar El Akkad talks about his inspiration for American War and how his career as a journalist influenced his novel in this TED Talk. 

Listen to a short interview with El Akkad on NPR below. A transcript of the interview is available at

Research and Instructional Services Librarian

Profile Photo
Sarah Sahn