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American Widow Hardcover – September 9, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Torres's husband, Eddie, started work at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001. The next day, Alissa became one of the terrorist widows of 9/11. American Widow chronicles Alissa's first year without Eddie—including the birth of their child, two months after his death. It also traces their courtship, marriage and the last few days of Eddie's life. This deeply personal book is at times raw, angry, bleak and lyrical. The best prose comes out of Torres's moments of pure, lonely grief, which punctuate her confusing and at times horrifying experiences with various aid agencies, family members, friends and strangers. Choi's art is reminiscent of the work of Andi Watson and Craig Thompson, and complements Torres's writing by emphasizing the ordinary in Alissa's extraordinary circumstances. Torres and Choi do best with the confusion and shock that come with a sudden death, laying out scene after scene without quite connecting them—just as events seem to go on and on without meaning when one has lost someone important. What this book lacks in technique and narrative drive, it makes up in its heartfelt look at the universality in one woman's loss. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Alissa Torres lives in New York with her family.
Choi is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has produced short comics as well as illustrations for The New York Times.
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I expected a story , heartfelt from this woman who had been through so much and to be fair these drawings were her way of dealing with what she had to go through.. I can respect that.
I have never been a fan of comics, or anything of that genre, I did'nt realize the entire thing was written in "cartoon" form like comic bubbles but telling the story instead. I was looking for a heart felt novel and while I am sure the moments were heartfelt I couldn't get through it.
IF you are a fan of this type of thing, this is the book for you.. for me it just did not have an impact. Though I am sorry for what the author went through
On many levels, Torres bares her soul as she wades through the intense emotions surrounding the loss of Eddie Torres, her husband. Pregnant on September 11, 2001, the birth of her child by a dead husband put her into a situation even more intense. Betrayal, loss, anger, loneliness, and desperation ooze through in the sparse diary/dialogue laden narrative. The art by Sungyoon Choi is simple, and does not overwhelm the angst filled text.
Content wise, most Americans will never get a more honest education in the politics of humanitarian aid, whether Red Cross, or government based. The frustration the survivors must have dealt with are intimidating in lowpoint emphasis. The transformation from wife, to widow, to victim, to charity dependent, and finally to independence is compelling.
This will be a controversial book given the subject matter. Agree with Ms Torres or not, you will find yourself wanting to find out `the rest of the story'.
Alissa and her new beau, Luis Eduardo "Eddie" Torres, enjoyed a whirlwind romance. They met in August 1998, just a week before Eddie was scheduled to face a possible deportation back to Colombia if his work visa expired. He stayed, and Alissa stayed with him. Seven months later they were married.
In September 2001, Alissa was seven months pregnant and Eddie was unemployed. His desperate search for work brought him to Cantor Fitzgerald, who hired him to start on September 10th in their offices in the World Trade Center. The next day, he died along with all the other employees in the office that day.
American Widow doesn't wallow in self-pity, but it does clearly evoke the emotions --- still so raw --- that we all felt seven years ago. Alissa Torres reportedly decided to tell her own 9/11 story in graphic novel form after she remarked to a friend that all the pitfalls she faced in dealing with its aftermath made her think that her life was like a comic book. Perhaps, although it can definitely be said that the medium lends itself awfully well to the story she is telling. In a way, this blending of unadulterated passionate feelings, coupled with cold hard facts, is perfect for the graphic medium. Torres and her artist, Sungyoon Choi, use it to their advantage, mixing real events with imagination and jumbling the timeline in a way that drives the story home even more.
With sheer frustration, we follow Alissa as she attempts not only to navigate the final days of her pregnancy but also to sort through the incredible volume of paperwork, bureaucracy and pigheadedness that followed 9/11. With a media chomping at the bit to show the personal tragedy of pregnant widows, Alissa and others similar to her draw attention, but the outpouring of support lasts only so long. Months later, with no money coming in and extensive bills racking up, frustrations mount and sympathy has seemingly dissipated, to be replaced by accusations of greed and celebrity-seeking.
It's a sad turn of events, and watching it all unfold from the relative safety of being seven years removed from that day makes it somewhat surreal to witness. We sense Alissa's ongoing frustration and feel it firsthand. We ache for what she lost (she never loses focus of the love story at the heart of this book). We mourn, and we feel bad for the child that will never know his father. We feel lost and strive desperately for answers in the text. Some answers come. Some don't. That's the legacy of 9/11. Alissa Torres probably realizes that as well as anyone.
-- John Hogan
The story includes that fateful day up to the one-year anniversary with alternating flash backs including scenes of Eddie at 10-years old, his life before meeting Alissa and their courtship, marriage and pregnancy. In chapter one alone, my arms were covered with goose bumps. 9/11 was just Eddie's second day at his new job with Cantor Fitzgerald. Included is Alissa's deeply frustrating struggle with several assistance agencies and the government plus you see how different friends and family react to her circumstances.
The story exposed shows us just a glimmer of what surviving family members endured that I would have never imagined. When Alissa's private thoughts are shared you get a sense of how difficult and confusing this time in her life was and you can't help but be affected by this deeply personal story.