I want you all to know that I tried to read Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan. I wanted to read it. I know, I avoided all the other books about 9/11. I avoided even looking at the cover of the illustrated 9/11 Report because it had the towers burning. But as I told my boyfriend, I’m going to be a librarian. For teens. And they will need to understand what 9/11 was like. Even people who lived further away from NYC at the time might benefit from reading fiction, or non-fiction, about the time. For them, I need to read the book, to know whether it is an accurate depiction of the events and the emotions. As for me, I hate talking about 9/11. I just thought maybe reading about it would be an important experience, as I imagine writing about it was an important experience for the author.
I cracked open Love is the Higher Law late last night. 50 pages in, I closed the book and put it on my library return pile. In between, while I was reading the book, there’s no better way to put this: I freaked out. The book opens with Claire, a character in her senior year of high school, as the towers are being hit. That’s exactly who I was on 9/11: a senior in high school in a place where you could see the towers fall, in person. So, that hit close to home. And all the different points of view, from the different characters because I had those friends, those teenage friends, with those different ideas about 9/11. I lived this book. So many authors, great authors, talk about how their fiction is true because it has true feelings, true actions, true characters, developed from things and people and emotions in real life. I always nodded my head; believing because they believed. Understanding as a thinker that art draws from real life. Last night, in bed, I felt the truth of Love is the Higher Law. Kudos to you, David Levithan. You did such a great job that I can’t read your book. But others will be able to, and they will understand the truth about 9/11, however traumatic that may be. (Teens do love trauma, especially if it’s real.) Unless it gets to be different later, but I couldn’t stick around to find out.
In the end, I was right. Reading those 50 pages of Love is the Higher Law was an important experience. It told me that I am not ready for books about 9/11. There are older individuals who have the same feelings about books and movies fictionalizing JFK’s assassination. I never quite understood their objections. I get it now. All of us have events that just hit too close to home to read about in fiction. I can read a book that mentions 9/11. But it will be awhile before I pick up another book that features that day.