September 11th in Literature

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September 11th is always a day of remembrance and reflection for me. I’m sure all of you can remember where you were on September 11th. I was in 11th grade and was in Child Development class when we got the announcement. I don’t think alot of us understood the gravity of the situation and we thought it was just accidental at first. I remember getting home from school and my mom was glued to the tv. She was working from home and was on the phone with her boss talking about what they were seeing on tv and she saw the second plane go into the building during the newscast. She said that image would be forever seared into her mind. I’m sure we all have our stories and memories. I’d love to hear them. These kinds of things bring us together.

I was thinking about two things regarding 9/11:

1. In the College Students group I moderate, we were talking about fiction related to our time period. I was talking about how it feels eerie to be reading about something that has happened in my lifetime, something I can remember vividly. Like when I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or when that very tiny paragraph in The Time Traveler’s Wife and they talked about 9/11..I was just taken aback. I mean, obviously it is history but it was so weird to be able to actually have been alive during an event while reading a book.

2. I was thinking about how literature binds us together and helps us feel closer to humanity. It has the ability to convey emotions that we might not be able to name. Writers have the ability to do this and it is an important job to relay what happens in our lifetime so that generations after us will understand. I think literature plays a part in the healing process.

After these thoughts I decided to find some fiction and non-fiction books that deal with this tragic event that we have witnessed in our lifetime. Note: I’ve only read the first selection so I can’t endorse any of them either way.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer— This is one of my all-time favorite books. Honestly. It makes my top 5. An integral part of this story is 9/11 as the main character, a precocious and hilarious child, deals with his father’s death in the WTC as he tries to solve the “mystery” of a key that belonged to his father. I promise you, you will not regret reading this novel.

SaturdaySaturday by Ian McEwan – This novel deals with one man’s experience after 9/11 and before the beginning of the Iraq War. It takes one random Saturday of this man’s life and shows the effect that this event had on life and the life of his family. It is set in 2003 and seems to be a testament to what is dealt with in the post 9/11 world and how this event, no matter how far removed, has altered our lives.

Falling Man: A Novel

Falling Man by Don DeLillo– This title spooks me.The images of people falling from the WTC buildings is something I can never get out of my mind. It will haunt me for the rest of my life I think. This book seems to deal with several people who have all been affected in some way by 9/11. It seems to deal with the emotions that arose from being in the midst of this attack, relationships after the attacks, and ultimately how this event shaped the world. It got mixed reviews but it seems interesting to me.

The Usual Rules : A Novel
The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard– This is one of the few YA novels I could find pertaining to 9/11 (please comment with others if you know of them). It is told from the point of view of a 13 year old girl living in Brooklyn as she starts her day on 9/11 like any other as her world suddenly unravels as the reports come in. It deals with the personal effects in had on her and the healing and grieving in the time after this tragic event.

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage)

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright– This non-fiction book seems very informative and I think I’m probably going to pick this up.  I’m the type of person that likes to learn of the history leading up to some event. I was always that way in history classes. I didn’t want to just learn about WHAT happened by what forces led to it. This book seems to be just that–a history of Al-Qaeda and all the events leading up to 9/11.

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country: A Novel

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus – This is more of a black comedy type of book dealing with 9/11. A reviewer on Goodreads said she found it easier to read, despite its seemingly irreverant tone, then some other novels  She said “it is uncomfortable reading an account of 9/11 that isn’t meant to make us sad. It is uncomfortable reading about characters who grieve not for what they lost but for what they wish was lost. It is uncomfortable reading about unsympathetic characters when we want to read about heroes…but it is an excellent study of human nature”

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers– This one probably isn’t one for those who don’t deal well with the subject so directly. It takes you into the account of people who were in the building and what they all saw and felt firsthand as the nation watched together in shock. This looks like an intense read but seems to share a piece of this event that most did not experience or can understand.

In the Shadow of No Towers

In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman – This is actually a graphic novel and looks incredibly interesting. It seems to chronicle Art Spiegelman’s experience during 9/11 as he lived through it. From what reviewers have said, it seems like it is interspersed with commentary regarding the adminstration and their response.

Saffron Dreams (Academic Edition)
Saffron Dreams by Shalia AbdullahThis is a novel about a Muslim woman who loses her husband in the 9/11 attacks who is pregnant and feels like an outcast in the post 9/11 world. It seems to be written like a memoir, though it is fiction, and chronicles her struggle to realize her dreams and purpose after such a horrible trauma. This seems interesting to me to see what it would be like for Muslims in the US after 9/11.

This is only a sampling of the books I found but these picqued my interest for various reasons.

Have you read any books that have mentioned or dealt with 9/11? Did it feel eerie to be reading about it? Did you think the subject was dealt with delicately and accurately? 

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. MissAttitude says:

    Love Is The Higher Law by David Levithian. Set right after 9/11 in NYC. Also Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger. It looks at how Muslims were treated after 9/11. Both YA

    I really want to read Saffron Dreams as well as Extremely Loud and Incredibley Close.

    Thanks for this list!

  2. MissAttitude–Thanks for sharing those titles! I haven't heard of them. I'll have to be sure to check them out. I really had a hard time finding YA novels related.

  3. ELIC is a wonderful book; definitely one of my favorites! I want to recommend you a movie, but if I do then I'd give away the "twist" that it's about 9/11 :/

  4. Jillian–You should just recommend me a whole list of movies and then I'll watch them all and get to that one 🙂 And ELIC is seriously amazing. I understand Oskar's "heavy boots" feeling. Especially when I think about 9/11

  5. Jamie, I read a book by Art Spiegelman called In the Shadow of No Towers, a large-format graphic board book about it. It's pretty powerful, with lots of old newspaper comic references and subtle additions to the illustrations. It's worth taking a look at if you are able to find a copy.

  6. Tahleen–That was the second to last one on my list. It looked interesting!

  7. Great post Jamie. I remember reading Falling Man and just feeling strange thee whole time. It think it dealt with things pretty well, as far as tact goes. The image of the people falling from the towers is something truly horrifying, and I think the book tries to link those people falling with the way the people affected by the tragedy seemed to fall. It was a very strange book, and I'm not sure if I liked it, but it definitely sticks in my mind.

  8. Great post Jamie! I'm reading "Little Chapel On The River" by Gwendolyn Bounds, which starts out with the morning of September 11th. "Eat Pray Love" by Liz Gilbert also mentions September 11th, though briefly.

  9. Rose City Reader says:

    The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud is set in the weeks before 9/11 and culminates in the event. It seemed a little choppy to me — like she started writing one book, but 9/11 happened while she was writing it and so she incorporated it into the story. I have no idea if that happened, but that's what it felt like.

    In general, I didn't care for the book because I think she ripped off Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honorable Defeat.

  10. Oops, sorry! I quickly glanced through them b/c I had to get out the door, didn't realize you already had it on there, but nice list 🙂

  11. Emily–Thanks for your input on Falling Man. I thought it looked interesting and strange as well.

    Jo–I've never heard of that one you mentioned. Thanks!

    Rose City Reader– Ah. I get what you mean! I probably won't be checking that one out!

    Tahleen– Haha it's all good. I always do that too when I just want to quick look at a post but I can't fully read it. lol. I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts on it though.