Like most American boys of his generation, Paul Auster grew up playing with toy six-shooters and mimicking the gun-slinging cowboys in B Westerns. A skilled marksman by the age of ten, he also lived through the traumatic aftermath of the murder of his grandfather by his grandmother when his father was a child and knows, through firsthand experience, how families can be wrecked by a single act of gun violence.
In this short, searing book, Auster traces centuries of America’s use and abuse of guns, from the violent displacement of the native population to the forced enslavement of millions, to the bitter divide between embattled gun control and anti-gun control camps that has developed over the past 50 years and the mass shootings that dominate the news today. Since 1968, more than one and a half million Americans have been killed by guns. The numbers are so large, so catastrophic, so disproportionate to what goes on elsewhere, that one must ask why. Why is America so different—and why are we the most violent country in the Western world?
Interwoven with Spencer Ostrander’s haunting photographs of the sites of more than thirty mass shootings in all parts of the country, Bloodbath Nation presents a succinct but thorough examination of America at a crossroads, and asks the central, burning question of our moment: What kind of society do we want to live in?
A portion of proceeds from this book will be donated to the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit organization working to stop gun death and injury through research, education, and advocacy.
Praise for Bloodbath Nation:
“[Bloodbath Nation is] remarkably powerful… Accompanying Auster’s sobering, impassioned plea are haunting black-and-white photographs taken by Spencer Ostrander.”—Alex Kotlowitz, Washington Post
“The stories Auster shares belong to every American… Ostrander contributes forty-one images, each in its way as riveting as Auster’s text. Why? Because all of us living in America have been there: that supermarket aisle, that sidewalk, that classroom. We are all going there today. This, of course—as the author recognizes—is the crux of the matter, that we are the problem we cannot solve. The power of Auster’s book is that it never blinks in articulating this dilemma, that it doesn’t let anybody off the hook. Gun violence in the United States is a collective problem, after all—which also means, as Bloodbath Nation argues so compellingly, that it is a collective responsibility.”—David Ulin, 4Columns.org
“Auster’s book is exactly what is needed at this time.”—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment
“[A] powerful look at the causes and consequences of gun violence in America… For Auster, who casts doubt on the likelihood of judicial or legislative remedies, the end to the gun debate will only occur when ‘both sides want it, and in order for that to happen, we would first have to conduct an honest, gut-wrenching examination of who we are and who we want to be as a people going forward into the future.’ This trenchant account goes a long way toward making that possible.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Deft and dogged and entirely too contemplative to be a screed… Accounts of [Auster’s] personal experience with guns merge with sociological observations and a partial inventory of mass shootings in the U.S… Will the message of Bloodbath Nation reverberate outside the echo chamber of Auster’s fellow gun-control advocates? [Auster’s] generally measured tone makes it seem possible.”—Shelf Awareness
“Exceptional in its clarity and arresting in its sense of urgency… A harrowing, haunting reflection on the routine slaughter wrought by guns.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“A rigorous and evocative grappling with mass tragedies in this time of ‘furious discord.’”—Booklist
“An anguished cry of bafflement at this country’s obsession for guns… deals with the societal consequences of sacrificing thousands of lives.”—Library Journal