Bulletproof Vest

Kenneth R. Rosen (Author) Ian Bogost (Editor)
& 1 more


Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

Nothing's bulletproof, the salesman said. The thing's only bullet resistant. The New York Times journalist Kenneth R. Rosen had just purchased his first bulletproof vest and was headed off on assignment. He was travelling into Mosul, Iraq, when he realized that the idea of a bulletproof vest is more effective than the vest itself. From its very inception, poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, or Kevlar, was meant for tires. Its humble roots and mundane applications are often lost, as it is now synonymous with body armor, war zones, and domestic terrorism.

What Rosen learned through intimate use of his vest was that it acts as a metaphor for all the precautions we take toward digital, physical, and social security. Bulletproof Vest is at once an introspective journey into the properties and precisions of a bulletproof vest on a molecular level and on the world stage. It's also an ode to living precariously, an open letter that defends the notion that life is worth the risk.

A portion of the author's proceeds will be donated to RISC, a nonprofit that provides emergency medical training to freelance conflict journalists. For more information, go to www.risctraining.org.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.

Product Details

$14.95  $13.75
Bloomsbury Academic
Publish Date
April 16, 2020
4.7 X 6.4 X 0.6 inches | 0.3 pounds

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About the Author

Kenneth R. Rosen, a journalist at The New York Times and a contributing writer at WIRED, received the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award for war correspondents in 2018, and was a finalist in 2019, for his reporting from Syria and Iraq.


"For the author, a lifelong sufferer of anxiety, the idea of a bulletproof vest (or a 'bullet resistant' one, as the salesman reminded him) suggested a potent metaphor for humanity's relationship to violence, security, and mortality. His book mixes his own wartime accounts from Iraq and Syria with discussions of anxiety and the history of body armor; along the way, Rosen seeks to describe just what he was trying to banish when he put on his vest. The author's prose alternates between being confessional and informative ... Over the course of this reliably tense book, Rosen does a wonderful job of emphasizing the destructive power of warfare by framing his thoughts around account of being a noncombatant in a war zone. Overall, it's a quick read but one with great impact, as it asks its audience not only to think about protective vests, but also about the soft, vulnerable things that they're meant to protect. A compelling, thoughtful dive into the pursuit of being bulletproof." --Kirkus Reviews

"Kenneth Rosen, war-reporter, journalist, abyss-looker, intuiter of the human spirit, presents the materials of war, stitches them together in a fascinating story that shows no matter how tight and polymeric the jacket, the true dangers of war are the mental wounds that go straight to your head. His insights into war do what they can to protect us from those wounds--but like the vest, offer an imperfect protection. Thankfully, Kenneth's words are near perfect and perfectly moving." --Nicole Walker, Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, USA, and author of Sustainability: A Love Story (2018)