20 Years Later: Books to Commemorate September 11

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I have hard time believing that it happened two decades ago, when on bright sunny morning, a city and a world were changed forever. Today brings sadness and pain but like a phoenix, the world rised out of the ashes and continue to rebuild through strength, hope and unity. And although we still are dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, what we have felt and learned from that day will remain.

There are so many stories out there that reflect the events and the aftermath of 9/11. To keep the memory of that day alive, it is important to read the powerful historical accounts and inspirational stories of that horrid day. For the 20 years, here are 20 book recommendations that help commemorate September 11 and make us remember to never forget:

Big Apple Diaries by Alyssa Bermudez 

In Big Apple Diaries, a heartfelt diary-style graphic memoir by Alyssa Bermudez, a young New Yorker doodles her way through middle school–until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack leaves her wondering if she can ever be a kid again.

It’s the year 2000 in New York City. For 12-year old Alyssa, this means splitting time between her Puerto Rican dad’s apartment in Manhattan and her white mom’s new place in Queens, navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school, and an epic crush on a new classmate. The only way to make sense of it all is to capture the highs and lows in doodles and hilarious comics in a diary.

Then life abruptly changes on September 11, 2001. After the Twin Towers fall and so many lives are lost, worries about gossip and boys feel distant and insignificant. Alyssa must find a new sense of self and purpose amidst all of the chaos, and find the strength to move forward with hope. (Credit: Roaring Book Press)

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes 

When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Dèja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers? (Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab by Priya Huq 

Expected Publication Date: November 16

Nisrin is a 13-year-old Bangladeshi-American girl living in Milwaukie, Oregon, in 2002. As she nears the end of eighth grade, she gives a presentation for World Culture Day about Bangladesh while wearing a traditional cultural dress. On her way home, she is the victim of a hate crime when a man violently attacks her for wearing a headscarf.

Deeply traumatized by the experience, Nisrin spends the summer depressed and isolated. Other than weekly therapy, Nisrin doesn’t leave the house until fall arrives and it’s time for her to start freshman year at a new school. The night before class starts, Nisrin makes a decision. She tells her family she’s going to start wearing hijab, much to their dismay. Her mother and grandparent’s shocked and angry reactions confuse her–but they only strengthen her resolve.

This choice puts Nisrin on a path to not only discover more about Islam, but also her family’s complicated relationship with the religion, and the reasons they left Bangladesh in the first place. On top of everything else, she’s struggling to fit in at school–her hijab makes her a target for students and faculty alike. But with the help from old friends and new, Nisrin is starting to figure out what really makes her happy. Piece by Piece is an original graphic novel about growing up and choosing your own path, even if it leads you to a different place than you expected. (Credit: Amulet Books)

Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree by Ann Magee and illustrated by Nicole Wong

Remember and honor the events of 9/11 and celebrate how hope appears in the midst of hardship. The Survivor Tree found at Ground Zero was rescued, rehabilitated, and then replanted at the 9/11 Memorial site in 2011. This is its story.

In this moving tribute to a city and its people, a wordless story of a young child accompanies the tree’s history. As the tree heals, the girl grows into an adult, and by the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she has become a firefighter like her first-responder uncle. A life-affirming introduction to how 9/11 affected the United States and how we recovered together. (Credit: Charlesbridge Publishing)

The Muslim Problem: Why We’re Wrong About Islam and Why It Matters by Tawseef Khan

Why are Muslim men portrayed as inherently violent? Does the veil violate women’s rights? Is Islam stopping Muslims from integrating?

Across western societies, Muslims are more misunderstood than any other minority. But what does it mean to believe in Islam today, to have forged your beliefs and identity in the shadow of 9/11 and the War on Terror? Exploding stereotypes from both inside and outside the faith, The Muslim Problem shows that while we may think we know all about Islam we are often wrong about even the most basic facts.

Bold and provocative, The Muslim Problem is both a wake-up call for non-believers and a passionate new framework for Muslims to navigate a world that is often set against them. (Credit: Atlantic Books (UK))

Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum 

Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future.

Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka Baby Hope) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers? (Credit: Delacorte Press)

Ground Zero by Alan Gertz

September 11, 2001, New York City: Brandon is visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Out of nowhere, an airplane slams into the tower, creating a fiery nightmare of terror and confusion. And Brandon is in the middle of it all. Can he survive — and escape?

September 11, 2019, Afghanistan: Reshmina has grown up in the shadow of war, but she dreams of peace and progress. When a battle erupts in her village, Reshmina stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz — and put herself and her family in mortal danger?

Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same. (Credit: Scholastic Press)

Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff 

In the days and months after 9/11, Mitchell Zuckoff, then a reporter for the Boston Globe, wrote about the attacks, the victims, and their families. After further years of meticulous reporting, Zuckoff has filled Fall and Rise with voices of the lost and the saved. The result is an utterly gripping book, filled with intimate stories of people most affected by the events of that sunny Tuesday in September: an out-of-work actor stuck in an elevator in the North Tower of the World Trade Center; the heroes aboard Flight 93 deciding to take action; a veteran trapped in the inferno in the Pentagon; the fire chief among the first on the scene in sleepy Shanksville; a team of firefighters racing to save an injured woman and themselves; and the men, women, and children flying across country to see loved ones or for work who suddenly faced terrorists bent on murder.

Fall and Rise will open new avenues of understanding for everyone who thinks they know the story of 9/11, bringing to life–and in some cases, bringing back to life–the extraordinary ordinary people who experienced the worst day in modern American history.

Destined to be a classic, Fall and Rise will move, shock, inspire, and fill hearts with love and admiration for the human spirit as it triumphs in the face of horrifying events. (Credit: Harper Perennial)

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas–and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.

Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.

With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy–and his friendships–in the face of heartache and prejudice? (Credit: Quill Tree Books)

An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.

She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.

Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart–

It’s broken.

Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.

She explodes. (Credit: HarperCollins)

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar 

A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ayad Akhtar forges a new narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear, and where the nation’s unhealed wounds wreak havoc around the world. Akhtar attempts to make sense of it all through the lens of a story about one family, from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerrilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, and spares no one–least of all himself–in the process. (Credit: Little Brown and Company)

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent’s faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals. (Credit: Sjp for Hogarth)

Women’s Stories of 9/11: Voices from Afghanistan and the West by Christopher Hilton

This is a work of 11 self-contained chapters, one for each day of September before the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, each containing one woman’s story. Taking stories from a broad spectrum of women, the chapters reflect the worlds they inhabited and how the attack on September 11 affected their lives. Despite national and international policies aimed at securing equality for women, the sad fact is that it is still an uneven and insecure equality. Dare we hope that the situation will improve? Christopher Hilton has interviewed eleven very different women–some from the West, some from Afghanistan–to find out what their lives were like and how the attack of September 11, 2001 changed their lives. In the stories that emerge we hear the voices of women whose ordinary loves were suddenly changed and who became actors in some of the most far-reaching events of the modern world. (Credit: History Press)

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

In The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and author Garrett Graff draws on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, and original interviews and stories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members to paint the most comprehensive, minute-by-minute account of the September 11 attacks yet, all told in the words of those who experienced that dramatic and tragic day. From the firefighters who streamed into the smoke-filled stairwells of the Twin Towers to the fighter pilots scrambled from air bases across the Northeast with orders to shoot down any hijacked commercial aircraft; from the teachers who held their fear at bay while evacuating terrified children from schools mere blocks from the World Trade Center to the stricken family members trapped helplessly on the ground, hearing their loved ones’ final words from aboard a hijacked plane or within a burning building, Graff weaves together the unforgettable testimonies of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives. (Credit: Avid Reader Press)

Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11 by Maha Hilal

Expected Publication Date: October 26

In Innocent until Proven Muslim, scholar and organizer Dr.Maha Hilal tells the powerful story of two decades of the War on Terror, exploring how the official narrative has justified the creation of a sprawling apparatus of state violence rooted in Islamophobia and excused its worst abuses. Hilal offers not only an overview of the many iterations of the War on Terror in law and policy, but also examines how Muslim Americans have internalized oppression, how some influential Muslim Americans have perpetuated collective responsibility, and how the lived experiences of Muslim Americans reflect what it means to live as part of a suspect community. Along the way, this marginalized community gives voice to lessons that we can all learn from their experiences, and to what it would take to create a better future.

Twenty years after the tragic events of 9/11, we must look at its full legacy in order to move toward a United States that is truly inclusive and unified. (Credit: Broadleaf Books)

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day — until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Nadira has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Amy is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business. (Credit:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

Now:
Sixteen-year-old Jesse is used to living with the echoes of the past. Her older brother died in the September 11th attacks, and her dad since has filled their home with anger and grief. When Jesse gets caught up with the wrong crowd, one momentary hate-fueled decision turns her life upside down. The only way to make amends is to face the past, starting Jesse on a journey that will reveal the truth about how her brother died.

Then:
In 2001, sixteen-year-old Alia is proud to be Muslim . . . it’s being a teenager that she finds difficult. After being grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her in danger she never could have imagined. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers, Alia is trapped inside one of the buildings. In the final hours, she meets a boy who will change everything for her as the flames rage around them
. (Credit: Bloomsbury)

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.

As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news.

Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. As a show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill. (Credit: William Morrow)

Guantanamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison edited by Sarah Mirk

In January 2002, the United States sent a group of Muslim men they suspected of terrorism to a prison in Guantánamo Bay. They were the first of roughly 780 prisoners who would be held there—and 40 inmates still remain. Eighteen years later, very few of them have been ever charged with a crime.

In Guantánamo Voices, journalist Sarah Mirk and her team of diverse, talented graphic novel artists tell the stories of ten people whose lives have been shaped and affected by the prison, including former prisoners, lawyers, social workers, and service members. This collection of illustrated interviews explores the history of Guantánamo and the world post-9/11, presenting this complicated partisan issue through a new lens. (Credit: Abrams ComicArts)

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag by Amanda Davis and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport 

In the days following September 11th, a 30-foot American flag hung torn and tattered at 90 West Street, across from Ground Zero. A few weeks later, the flag was taken down by a construction crew and tucked away in storage, where it stayed for nearly seven years.

The flag was brought out of storage in 2008 when the New York Says Thank You Foundation headed to Greensburg, Kansas, a town nearly destroyed by a tornado. NYSTY brought the flag with them, sparking a grassroots restoration effort that traveled over 120,000 miles across all fifty states, bringing together thousands of people, and helping America heal and rebuild . . . hand by hand, thread by thread, one stitch at a time.

This book is the story of that journey, a journey that ended at the opening of the National September 11 Museum, where the flag remains today. Along the way, the flag was restored using pieces of retired flags from every state–including a piece of the flag that Abraham Lincoln was laid on after he was shot at Ford’s Theater and threads from the original Star-Spangled Banner flag, which flew at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. The pieces and threads were stitched in by military veterans, first responders, educators, students, community-service heroes, and family members of 9/11 victims, among others. At each stop, communities came together to remember, to heal, and to unite. (Credit: Worthy Kids)



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