Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story
Nora Raleigh Baskin
Atheneum, 2016 193 pgs.
Baskin traces the 48 hours leading up to and including the events of September 11, 2001 as seen through the eyes of four young people. They start the story together with overlapping experiences, yet not interacting, at an O'Hare Airport in Chicago and then they are scattered in different directions to tell their tales. Sergio is a smart, yet economically deprived young man with his grandmother in Brooklyn. While skipping school on September 10, he is befriended by a NYC firefighter, establishing a connection that makes the bombing of the twin towers personal. Will, grieving the loss of his father a year earlier and experiencing his first crush, watches first hand as the airplane crashes in his hometown of Shanksville, PA. Amy starts at a new school in California, where she feels like an outcast. She really needs her mother to talk to, but Mom is in New York City on business, heading for a meeting the World Trade Center. Finally, Nadira is also starting at a new school. She has begun to wear a hijab, an important symbol of her Muslim faith. After the terrorist attacks are revealed to the student body at her school she feels exposed and frightened for her personal safety. The end of the story takes place one year later. All four young people have traveled to New York for the Memorial Service, where they once again share a space and an encounter, yet still remain separate.
This felt so weird determining that a book about September 11 is historical fiction, but to today's youth, the target audience not being alive when the described events happened, it is indeed historical fiction. I went recently to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, basically because my visiting father wanted to go. I was pregnant with my daughter during this horrible chapter in American history and haven't really talked about it much with either of my children. The events are too painful and personal and I haven't wanted to revisit it. My thirteen year old daughter was moved at the museum and asked questions, which got me talking, crying, and healing. Kids are starting to learn about the events of September 11 in school and fictionalized stories are a way to present the information in a personal and relatable way. Baskin gives an accurate and well researched account of the experiences of the four very different young people. She shows the fear and shock they are feeling and does not shy away from the brutality of the events. She intentionally, as explained in an author's note, does not have any of the four young people lose anyone close to them. The story is disturbing enough for the intended audience without bringing more tragedy to the proceedings. The prejudice against American Muslims at the time (and still happening today) is an important chapter to the story and will hopefully give today's readers a useful "take away". Honest and accurate without causing nightmares, Baskin hits the nail on the head for today's young people who would like to know more about this horrible tragedy and may spark meaningful conversations with parents and other grown-ups who lived through it.