I had the pleasure of meeting Alissa Torres at ALA Midwinter. She was a genuinely nice person and I was glad I got the chance to meet her. I had not heard of American Widow until then, which is a little disappointing to me because I tend to read a fair amount of graphic novel reviews. I felt a little awkward telling her that I looked forward to reading her book, but it was true. It’s not that I enjoy other people’s suffering, but American Widow helped give me a better perspective on the events of 9/11. That event was just too big that I couldn’t comprehend it, so in order to function, I put it in the far closet of my brain and let it sit there. I remember being at the Reference Desk on September 11, 2001 and getting the call from my husband. We kept trying to get the news on the internet but all the news sites were frozen. It took me probably a full 45 minutes to comprehend that the World Trade Center towers must have been full of people when they collapsed. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely had feelings about the events that happened after 9/11, but the actual event itself was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. Alissa’s story helped me to begin to understand.
Here is a review that I wrote for work:
The tragedy on September 11, 2001 was an event that will go down in American history books as one that changed our nation. The late Howard Zinn reminds us that history is not just written by presidents and generals but regular people like you and me. What Alissa Torres does in this graphic novel memoir, is help us to see the events of 9/11 not as a war or an act of terrorism, but through the eyes of an individual. The artwork by Sungyoon Choi brings to life the variety of emotions of each character. I felt an instant affection for Alissa and Eddie Torres as I got to watch them fall in love and it made it so much harder to watch Ms. Torres, then seven months pregnant, as she experienced the horror of knowing her husband was in the World Trade Center. The hope and loss and struggle to get through her experience really touched something in me in a way that no news story or magazine article could. The way she expressed the immediacy and rawness of her ordeal, I could almost put myself in her shoes. The little details like filling out applications for compensation and trying to get her husband’s family to the funeral made her story much more compelling. Although, most readers won’t have to do those specific things, they can perhaps relate to them more than they can a plane flying into a skyscraper. I could feel her frustration and I wanted so much to help her. I am glad to have read this book even though I wish the circumstances were such that it never had to be written. I have a greater sense of the people’s version of 9/11 after reading it.