Not by the Sword


Not by the Sword

How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman

Kathryn Watterson
With a new preface by the author

384 pages
23 photographs


November 2012


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Not by the Sword tells the inspiring true story of how a Jewish cantor and his family changed the life of a virulent white supremacist leader. This riveting account begins in 1991, when Cantor Michael Weisser received his first threatening phone call from Larry Trapp, Grand Dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Nebraska. But Cantor Weisser and his wife, Julie, refused to be intimidated by Trapp's escalating threats. Instead, they made a stunning offer of friendship. After an emotional confrontation with the Weissers, Trapp shocked everyone—including himself—by resigning from the KKK and breaking his ties with other neo-Nazi leaders.

Not by the Sword recounts Larry Trapp’s life as a racist, his startling transformation in response to the Weissers’ kindness, and his subsequent crusade to redeem his past. Kathryn Watterson movingly describes how one family feared, fought, and then forgave a man who had tried to destroy them.

This gripping tale gives the reader an inside view of hate mongering and offers a powerful testament to the triumph of the human spirit and the transforming power of love and tolerance.

Author Bio

Kathryn Watterson teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the award-winning author of eight books, including You Must Be Dreaming (basis of the NBC movie Betrayal of Trust) and Women in Prison (basis of the ABC documentary Women in Prison).


“This rare investigation of American hate-mongering provides a unique glimpse as well at the power of tolerance and love. Once Watterson places us inside the Lincoln, Nebraska, apartment of the ‘Klansman’ of the subtitle, it’s almost impossible to put this book down.”—Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle


“Watterson has written one of the most powerful, painful, yet healing stories about our most explosive issue: race. Her book [Not by the Sword] is not only literally true but also symbolically true for us as a people—if we acknowledge and transform who and what we are.”—Cornel West, author of Race Matters



Not by the Sword tells an astonishing story of daring and resourcefulness in making contact with another who would negate one’s very right to exist. . . . Watterson’s account of the events is fascinating, and the story itself is so extraordinary that one cannot but be gripped by it.”—Paul L. Wachtel, Washington Post Book World

“Watterson wrote a book about true humanity and love for fellow man that conveys a new sense of what is possible. Her effort, Not by the Sword, is uplifting, yet not mawkish. It is chilling, yet not hyperbolic. She could have easily messed up such a dramatic story. Watterson did not.”—John Hanchette, Washington Bureau, Gannett News

Not by the Sword has High Holy Days written all over it. It’s an epic of teshuva, healing, and the great potential of human beings to change. . . . [Watterson] reveals much about Weisser’s background that might explain why he worked so hard to give others the opportunity to change.”—Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week

“The underlying structure [of Not by the Sword] is a race against time. Readers will plunge ahead, increasingly awed by the events taking place in the story, eager to know what happens, amazed at each stage of Trapp’s remarkable rebirth as a new—though still flawed and deeply troubled— human being.”—Jim Baker, Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

Table of Contents

Preface to the Bison Books Edition
Prologue: The Place and the People
1: Sunday Morning
2: A Heartland Community
3: The KKK is Watching
4: Dragon's Lair
5: Vigilante Voices
6: A Disease of Fear
7: Broken Beyond Healing
8: Heil White Power
9: Hitler's First Laws
10: You May Be Next
11: Ricocheting Hatred
12: Ring of Fire
13: Face to Face
14: Unmasking the Dragon
15: Befriending the Enemy
16: Whoever Shuns Evil
17: Help Me Understand
18: Flick of a Tail
19: Working Miracles
20: Amazing Grace
21: A Family's Vision
22: Atonement
23: "Hear, O Israel . . ."
24: The Trainman's Tracks
25: Healing Truths
26: Crown of an Honorable Man
Notes and Sources


Winner of the Christopher Award (1996)

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