American Widow by Alissa Torres, illustrated by Sungyoon Choi
I slipped this one in just under the wire, as my week was really spent reading theoretical texts about Foucault and museums and audio preservation and whatnot.
So, what do I decide is the best way to take a break from all that? Read a graphic novel about a 9/11 widow on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. Doesn’t that sound cheery?!
Alissa Torres was 7 months pregnant when her husband died in one of the Twin Towers on September 11. He had started working there the day before. Yep. Ugh. In the following months, Alissa buries her husband. She has their child. She attempts to navigate the world of bureaucracy of disaster relief. And that’s where the narrative really focuses and stalls out.
I would have loved to know more about her relationship with her husband or her feelings after the birth of the son he’d never meet. When she actually lets herself go and write about those dark emotions, it really is moving. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do that nearly enough, instead focusing on her anger and frustrations with the Red Cross and other relief efforts that gave her the run around. To be honest, it’s a side I haven’t really heard before in all the 9/11 stories, but it certainly wasn’t the most affecting story around.
The art is gorgeous. It uses blank space to its advantage, echoing the bleakness of the story. Choi uses only three colors, white, black and an icy teal, which also reinforces the cold, hard narrative. Thumbs up to that. Believe me, I wish I had more to contribute to art talk, but my lack of graphic novel knowledge is showing.
So, all in all, a quick read with some emotional passages, but not the most moving account I’ve heard of 9/11.