Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering tragedy through books

There will be many tributes this weekend to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to the rescue workers who were there in the aftermath.  There are a variety of ways to try to understand tragedy, each of which serves its own function in helping us move forward.  For me, there is a place for fiction in all of this.  Azar Nafisi, in her popular book, Reading Lolita in Tehran wrote that "what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth."  While I certainly don't think that reading a book will make sense of everything that happened then or since, I think that reading stories often helps engender empathy and, through that, promotes greater understanding. 

With that in mind, if you're looking for something to read that covers this topic, there are a few books that I'd point to:

The Submission by Amy Waldman -- A new release about the tensions that arise when it is revealed that the winning design for a Ground Zero memorial was submitted by an American Muslim. 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer -- With a movie starring several Oscar winners, this 2005 title is becoming popular again (for more on movies about 9/11 check out the Now Playing blog).  It is  about a 9-year-old boy looking for the lock to a key that belonged to his father, who was killed in the World Trade Center. 

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus -- A dark comedy about a couple going through a bitter divorce when each thinks the other is killed in the terrorist attacks, this novel has been said to put the culture of New York up against the events of the day.

The Good Life by Jay McInerny -- Eite Manhattanites are forced to reconsider what is important in life when their lives are turned upside down in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

September Day by Larry Schweikart -- The worlds of people with remarkably disparate backgrounds are immutably intertwined by 9/11. 

And, for some non-fiction treatment of 9/11, there are a variety of interesting books, including:

Wounded City: The Social Impact of 9/11

A History of the World Since 9/11

Or, check out the 9/11 Digital Archive  for first-hand stories, emails, and digital images.

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