The Terror Dream by Susan Faludi
It’s been something like, oh, I don’t know, 5 or 6 weeks since I posted any reviews here. I’m 30 reviews behind and TOTALLY NOT PANICKING AT ALL. I taught a summer class, and then I added another part-time teaching gig on top of the primary and online gigs that I have, so exhaustion is high and time is low. I’m going to try to catch up over the weekend, but if you really want real-time updates, follow me on the Goodreads. I’m a much more active reader, and I’m *full* of shade. So. Onto the reviews, yes? I read this book over 4th of July weekend at my in-laws’ house, and I had a whole bunch of review notes. Let’s do this.
I was 16 ½ years old when 9/11 occurred. I can tell you what class I was in and what the weather was like when I found out that a plane struck the World Trade Center. Because I went to a boarding high school (another story for another time), some of the immediate cultural aftershocks were a bit lost on me. And during my early college years, I was still naïve enough to not fully understand them, either. Fast-forward to the Spring Semester of 2011, when I took a Literature and Terrorism course at the tail end of my MA program. I was no longer a Republican, not quite a Democrat, and I was working a lot of things out, both politically and culturally. We read an excerpt of Susan Faludi’s The Terror Dream as part of our theoretical background, and it was so engrossing that I went and bought the book. And then didn’t read until now. I truly mourn the lost time.
The Terror Dream looks at an idea—that women were having nightmares about traumatic violence done to them after September 11, 2001, despite the fact that most of the victims of the attacks on both the World Trade Center and downed flights were men—and examines a phenomenon: the shifting of gender roles to nostalgic reversals from equality to patriarchy. Faludi examines John Wayne cowboy masculinity, idealized in former President George W. Bush, Doris Day femininity—which prioritized fragile stay-at-home moms over independent, politically invested women—as well as a myriad of social and cultural events that showed an attack on feminism and independence in women. The Jessica Lynch case is especially telling.
This was an engrossing and horrifying read. I had forgotten the militaristic, macho, and hunting-oriented rhetoric of the 2004 election, and it came rushing back in detail. I had no idea how the “Jersey Girls” were treated as traitors and ungrateful widows simply for getting involved in national politics. I do remember a terrific Salon piece from 2011, which corroborates Faludi’s findings: that women were supposed to “fit” a certain 9/11 narrative and were treated dismissively—or worse—for subverting that narrative. I was enlightened by this book and recommend it to you.