– Posted by David W.
Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001, but few outside the tragic loci of that day’s events can have as dramatic a memory of them than the residents of the small Newfoundland town of Gander. It was to Gander that 39 planes carrying 6,595 passengers from all over the world were diverted when American airspace was closed. What happened next was a small miracle, memorably recounted in Jim DeFede’s book The Day the World Came to Town, and now the inspiration for the musical Come From Away, opening at the Seattle Repertory Theatre this Friday, with a preview at the Central library today at noon.
It has often been observed how tragic events can draw people closer together, and help us to bring out the best in each other. Here are some other titles that explore how this happens.
- The Storm and the Tide: Tragedy, Hope and Triumph in Tuscaloosa, by Lars Anderson. In 2011, the Alabama Crimson Tide swept to victory, claiming the national championship in college football. Yet the team’s greatest achievement that year was off the field, helping with relief efforts in the wake of a devastating tornado that took the lives of 53 people in Tuscaloosa, and inspiring the shattered town to rally around something worth believing in.
- Outcasts, United: A Refugee Soccer Team, An American Town, by Warren St. John. In addition to poverty and the experiences of war and strife, the refugee children gathered in the suburb of Clarkston, Georgia, from far-flung regions of Africa, Bosnia and the Middle East had one other thing in common: soccer. Snatching triumph from tragedy, their team – the Fugees – altered the minds and lives of both the players and their adopted town.
- The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong, by Judith Rodin. Something unexpected often happens in the wake of a disaster or seemingly insurmountable challenge. Individuals and communities pull together, drawing on untapped reserves to actually grow stronger and better. Rockefeller Foundation president Rodin explores this phenomenon, and how we can grow more resilient without waiting for the opportunity of a crisis.
- Be Very Afraid: The Cultural Response to Terror, Pandemics, Environmental Devastation, Nuclear Annihilation, and Other Threats, by Robert Wuthnow. Whether it be natural disasters, acts of terrorism or the threats of nuclear annihilation and global climate change, individuals and societies have responded in fascinating and often inspiringly creative ways that alter history, technology and culture. Wuthnow’s survey reveals how, time after time, we rise to the challenges that face us.
The island of Newfoundland is truly an extraordinary locale, a place like no other. Here are some excellent titles that explore the place and its people,
- Sweetland, by Michael Crummey. For the residents of the tiny hamlet of Sweetland, it seems their ship has come in. The Canadian government is offering everyone in town a sizable payment. All they have to do is leave Sweetland. A poignant story of Newfoundland ways and traditions during changing times.
- The Town That Forgot How to Breathe, by Kenneth Harvey. Something very strange is happening to the insular little fishing village of Bareneed, Newfoundland, as weird phenomena wash ashore and people suddenly can’t recall how to breathe. Using a beguiling mix of warmth and uncanny horror, Harvey explores the uneasy relationship between remote places and the encroaching modern world.
- The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston. The first premier of Newfoundland, Joey Smallwood grew from humble beginnings to become a larger-than-life character whose struggles, misadventures and conquests are wonderfully captured in this sweeping tribute to the stubborn people and bleak beauty of this Canadian island province.
- The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx. When his horrible wife dies in a car accident, perennial loser Quoyle retreats to the cold comfort of his family’s ancestral home perched on a barren rock in Newfoundland. Amidst the community’s quirky, big-hearted residents, he finds a sense of belonging altogether lacking in the world outside.
- August Gale: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Into the Storm, by Barbara Walsh. In a powerful story of struggle and reconciliation, Walsh tells of the terrible storm that claimed the lives of 40 Newfoundland fishermen in 1935, juxtaposed with her own family’s tribulations that began with that tempest. It is a timeless tale of women whose men go away never to return, and of the abiding love and fellowship that remains and grows strong in the wake of their loss.
For still more titles inspired by Come From Away, find this list of titles in our catalog.