Seven years ago, Alissa Torres' husband Eddie went to work at the brokerage firm of Cantor Fitzgerald, located in the World Trade Center. It was his second day at the job, and she never saw him again. At the time of Eddie's death, Torres was almost eight months pregnant. Since then, she has focused on raising her son, living her life and coming to terms with loss, while trying to make sense of the bureaucracy, grief, political ramifications and consequences.
Part of Torres' need to move on culminated in writing a graphic novel, American Widow, about her experience. The graphic novel genre is often closely associated with comic books, and may initially seem a strange medium for such painful subject matter. However, Torres realized she was haunted by the images - the ash, towers, planes, fire - and acknowledged her need to deal with the pictures in her mind, as well as the words. A graphic novel allowed her to both show and tell what she wanted to express. American Widow was released on September 9th, and is illustrated by Sungyoon Choi.
By turns painful and angry, touching and sweet, this beautifully drawn read is by and large an account of worldwide tragedy, but also very much a tribute, a love story, and a tale of hope, spanning one year. The story ends Sept. 11th, 2002, when Torres is in Hawaii with her 10-month-old son. In an interview with USA Today, Torres said "I knew so fiercely that I was alive, together with my son, and that it was a beautiful day."
Graphic novels are often pigenholed by the history of the genre, and many people assume they will all be silly, or frivolous, or doodles with little thought or substance. In reality, many graphic novels are well-written, thought-provoking accounts, whose subjects include heartache, ostracization and identity issues, living HIV positive, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the holocaust and more, accompanied by the visual work of talented artists.
Here are some other recommended graphic novels that show it's not all superheroes in tights.