It is striking how few adult novels with teen appeal exist that incorporate the events of 9/11. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (HMH, 2005) is the most well-known, and The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard (St. Martin’s, 2003) won a place on YALSA’s 2004 BBYA Top Ten list. The Terrorist by John Updike (Knopf, 2006) is not about 9/11 per se, but could hardly exist without it — a powerful, frightening novel about a New Jersey 18-year-old who is transformed into a home-grown terrorist.
Today we review a nonfiction collection of narrative accounts from the aftermath of 9/11. Patriot Acts highlights the treatment of men and women of Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Middle Eastern descent since those events.
For another perspective, Shelf Awareness also offered a review. Amy Waldman’s new novel, The Submission (FSG, 2011) in which a Muslim architect’s design is chosen for the memorial at Ground Zero, would make an ideal companion to this collection for older teens.
Adult/High School–After September 11, 2001, life changed for many people. Among those most profoundly impacted by the post 9/11 war on terror were Muslims, Arab Americans, and anyone with suspected ties to the Middle East. Patriot Acts is a collection of oral histories of people whose lives were affected, bringing to light the harsh treatment many were subjected to. The stories vary greatly, but all of them are about common people suddenly finding themselves viewed with suspicion, no matter their prior circumstances. Among the subjects are elementary school children, teenagers, college students, a firefighter, and even a 9/11 first responder. Many were American citizens. All found themselves subject to harassment, bullying, detainment, and interrogation, even though there was no evidence that they posed a threat. Through their powerful words, teens will realize that people in their own peer groups were affected. These recollections make clear that things we think can’t happen in the United States do, and that they can happen to anyone. Although disturbing at times, these accounts are important because they serve as a reminder that fear and stereotyping open the door to the mistreatment of innocent people. A glossary and several appendixes give context to the events discussed.–Carla Riemer, Berkeley High School, CA