9/11 Graphic Novels: “American Widow”

Written by Alissa Torres and drawn by Sungyoon Choi, American Widow is the heart-rending true story about Torres’s experience as a widow of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated, the graphic novel memoir recounts Torres’s tempestuous journey through shock, pain, confusion, birth, and rebirth in the wake of the death of her husband Eddie, who started work at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001.  The affecting account gives a vivid look at the universality of one woman’s loss.

When Luis Eduardo “Eddie” Torres died, he was 31.  Alissa, also 31, was nearly eight months pregnant with their first child.  The two enjoyed a whirlwind romance, meeting in August 1998–just a week before Eddie was scheduled to face a possible deportation back to his native Colombia.  He stayed and seven months later they were married.  Eddie’s feverish search for work brought him to Cantor Fitzgerald, which hired him to start on September 10th in their World Trade Center office.  The next day, he, along with all the other employees in the office that day, was dead.

Seven years later, Alissa wrote a 210-page graphic memoir, which she calls “an adult, literary comic book.”  The non-fiction autobiography tells of her marriage, and first year as a widow and single mother.  In non-chronological order, the book alternates between Torres’s experience of widowhood, pregnancy, media attention, and bureaucratic nightmares in the aftermath of the deadliest terrorist attack in human history.  A graphic memoir, most of the images are drawn by Choi, but photos of Eddie also appear in two sections as well as a photo of Alissa and her son, Joshua.  American Widow is a testament to the resilience of the human heart and the deeply personal story of how one woman endured a national tragedy.