"American Widow is my graphic novel memoir about life after my husband died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001."... Alissa Torres
I can't imagine what it felt like to lose someone on 9/11. Listening to the radio... watching the videos play out on television... waiting for someone to come home... searching hospitals... waiting for the phone to ring... 9 years ago Alissa Torres was 7 1/2 months pregnant living in NYC. Her husband, Eddie Torres, started his new job at Cantor Fitzgerald on Sept. 10th, 2001. The Cantor Fitzgerald offices were located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center... American Widow is her story. It is the terror, the frustration, the utter chaos Alissa had to live through. If mere words can make you come to realize what it was like to lose someone on 9/11, then the words (and images) in American Widow accomplish that.
9/11 still echoes the horrors of the terrorism that took the lives of the men and women that day. Alissa Torres is one of those victims of the aftermath. On that day, Sept. 11th, 2001, her life changed forever. American Widow tells the story of Alissa Torres & Eddie Torres in the form of a graphic novel. And it is a wonderful example of the power of a graphic novel. American Widow is drawn in black & white with aqua tinting by artist Sungyoon Choi, whose expressive images drive home the powerful story. Alissa doesn't pull any punches either, as she navigates the bureaucracy, people and the media to try and get through her grief and be able to support her family.
The book opens with the events of 9/11, but in flashbacks that flow seamlessly throughout the book, we get to know Alissa & Eddie... how they met & fell in love, the life they started together and even the life before they met. We learn about Eddie's immigrant status, how he worked multiple jobs to support himself and send money back to his family. And how he worked hard enough to climb the corporate ladder to become a currency broker. It really makes the loss of Eddie in Alissa's life all the more poignant, because you've virtually experienced their life together. It also makes you think, the same way Alissa did, "What if?" What if Eddie didn't go to work that morning... What if he never got fired from his other job... What if, what if, what if?
When American Widow was published, people wanted to know, "Why a graphic novel?!" Her inspiration for turning her story into a graphic novel came from a statement she made one day...
"My life is like a comic book!"
Alissa then read Art Spiegelman's Maus, David Chelsea in Love by David Chelsea, who she met through a friend and who recommended Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics. In an interview with GraphicNovelReporter, Alissa Torres says...
"McCloud’s work gave me greater understanding and sensitivity of the genre as I went on to read more first-person works: Lynda Barry’s 100 Demons, Joe Sacco’s Palestine, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. These graphic novels gave an immediacy and intimacy to the stories they told. These books, along with Maus, were proof to me of the beautiful, accessible, and moving outcomes that were possible from the genre."
American Widow is a moving story, one that was important for Alissa Torres to write, but also an important story for other people to read. Even if you've never picked up a graphic novel before, now is the time...
*P.S. I read American Widow as part of The Graphic Novels Challenge 2010! Click on The Graphic Novels Challenge link to see what other graphic novels I read this year!