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The Protester Has Been Released

by Janet Sarbanes

“Sarbanes is artful, precise, and prescient” — Rachel Kushner




Populated by wise animals and hapless humans, Protester brilliantly evokes an end-of-the-world feeling that is equal parts dread and hilarity. In ten precisely rendered stories and a novella featuring the American president’s daughter, Sarbanes takes on the big questions with gallows humor: What is freedom? What is love? What is art? And what does it matter now?

In “Meet Koko,” the famous signing gorilla spends her nights secretly typing a hilarious “counter-narrative” onto her researcher’s laptop. “The First Daughter Finds Her Way” chronicles the quest of a president’s daughter to keep her father from invading the world’s nations in reverse alphabetical order. Sibling rivalry turns lethal in “Who Will Sit with Maman?” And in “Ars Longa,” a Colorado town riddled with cancer turns to art making in order to cope with the chaos of the present and the sins of the past.

Whether chiseled into discretely titled chunks, or rendered via extended interior monologues, Sarbanes’ witty, affective prose deftly locates the promise of a new society within the shell of the old. A fierce, funny primer for our time.


The Protester Has Been Released is a spectacular and subversive collection, made even more so by its deceptive calm and supremely wry style. Its humor and range are first-rate; its political subjects utterly timely (for better or worse); its wisdom profound, especially as it feels earned off-road; its inventiveness and shrewdness apparent in every sentence, in every story.”

— Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts


“This is a profound book and necessary to the times we are living in now. Sarbanes explores the boundaries between ourselves and animals and Americans and the wider world in ways that illuminate the true issues behind the false ones. We need this book now.”

— Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia and You Are Free


“Exploring the subtle and not-so-subtle disjunctions between the so-called animal and the so-called human world, between police and citizens, between the president and its electorate, between rich and poor, and between humans and the world, The Protester Has Been Released is a funny, humane, and scalpel-sharp collection. Only after you finish do you realize how close these worlds are to our own, and how implicated you are.”

— Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses


The Protester Has Been Released gives yet more proof that Janet Sarbanes is a comic genius. She’s also some other kind of genius: these stories and novella range over broad territory, but in every case, Sarbanes is artful, precise, and prescient. Unfortunately, her apocalypse is ours, too. But as the end approaches, she’s terrific company.”

— Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers



Publisher’s Weekly has a new review of Janet’s book.

Check out Sarbanes’ interview on the Mark Steiner Show

A review of Protester is up on Roar a strong feminist magazine which says of Janet “she [Janet] exhibits a sophisticated satirical acuity mediated by a deeply felt sense of humanism that reminds me a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s work…” and concludes with a solid piece of advice: “Don’t miss it”.