Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis

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The opening segment of Paper Bullets is exciting. The two protagonists, Claude and Marcel, get on a bus in Nazi-held Jersey but are then forced off to show their papers. The reader knows they could be arrested if the soldiers look hard. It’s a gripping way to begin the novel.

Paper Bullets is about Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, who were figures in the art and resistance movements in the 1940s. I’m avoiding calling them both women because it seems that Claude would probably identify as non-binary if the term had existed at the time. I’ll refer to them as the artists and I’ll use their adopted names. They were stepsisters but more importantly, lovers and soulmates.

This is a very moving story. I became quite attached to both of the artists and ended up spending time, after reading Paper Bullets, looking for even more about their lives, work, and deaths. I think that anyone with an interest in art, resistance to Nazism or fascism, and LGBT history would really enjoy reading about these figures’ lives.

Paper Bullets is a beautifully written book by Jeffrey H Jackson, professor of history at Rhodes College. He clearly researched thoroughly and empathizes with the artists. The book is an ode to them, without being overly fawning. It is full of photographs, which I loved. My only criticism is that the novel style gives way to more dry explanations at times, instead of sticking more of a novel format. It is a hybrid history book/novel, which has both its strengths and drawbacks. I highly recommend Paper Bullets and hope it is used in history curricula.


Reviewed By:

Author Jeffrey H. Jackson
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Algonquin Books
Publish Date 2020-Nov-10
ISBN 9781616209162
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue December 2020
Category History
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