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The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  137 reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author of Backlash--an unflinching dissection of the mind of America after 9/11
In this most original examination of America's post-9/11 culture, Susan Faludi shines a light on the country's psychological response to the attacks on that terrible day. Turning her acute observational powers on the media, popular cult
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2007)
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Bill Kerwin
Nov 17, 2007 rated it liked it

Faludi's thesis is that America, wounded by 9/11, refused to look at reality and instead retreated into the archetypal American terror dream in which all men are super-manly and all women are weak vessels who must be protected. Faludi traces the development of this "terror dream"--the core narrative of which is the rescue of the innocent white woman from her dark-skinned libidinous captors--from its origins in the settlement of the eastern frontier in the 17th and 18th century to the "rescue" of
Nov 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were a direct physical threat to thousands of American citizens. For the couple hundred million other people not directly involved, it was a supremely resonant emotional event. It meant skipping work or school to spend hours in front of a television. It meant a crash course in Islam and Israel and al-Qaeda. It meant, if you were of a certain age, experiencing the first national ass-kicking in your life. (Having been born after Vietnam, I had lived in ...more
Oct 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm not even halfway through and I'm already sick from it. Faludi doesn't need to do much convincing, all she's doing is presenting the evidence from media sources and her thesis falls into place. I'm either literally burning with rage--I'm serious, my cheeks turn red and my heart starts pounding--or I'm close to tears at how widespread criticism of and viciousness against outspoken (or not) females and feminists was following 9/11. I have a lot further to go in this book, and I'm going to force ...more
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-read

Let it be known, Susan Faludi can mother-fucking write. I happen to think this book works best if read after her also amazing Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man which showcases the crisis of American Masculinity that's also on display in the "Terror Dream." But I think it could also be read on it's own.

She begins the book by carefully documenting the response to 9/11 on several fronts, but specifically gendered. The silencing of female voices, discussing the tragedy in terms of "the end
Apr 10, 2008 marked it as to-read
Still reading
I wondered why I felt so out-of-time-and-place after 9/11 - it just wasn't the planes ramming into the buildings or the past catching up with us - it's the absence of women in the reporting aspect. Media and politicians turned the tragedy as being given the divine right to push us all back to when men-were-manly defending their poor defenseless women who stayed at home with the kidlets. Contrived to push back the idea that actual real women walked out of the buildings on their own a
Oct 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
READ THIS BOOK. What Faludi brings to light will shock and nauseate you. And in case you weren't already embarrassed enough by this outlandish Hollywood production of a country, this book will reveal just how reliant the U.S. is on the propagation of a patriarchal, racist myth...and how deeply rooted that reliance is.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
True to form, I could not finish this book. I got really close. But. I just can't finish nonfiction books, no matter how interested I am in the subject matter. It's as embarrassing as it is chronic.

I liked and agreed with Faludi's book in spirit, though I did disagree with a few of its pieces of evidence. My pickiness notwithstanding, this is a thoroughly researched, chillingly believable, and prescient book. I implore other feminists, or those "I'm not a feminist but..." types to read it. Post
Nov 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
My review from

Faludi’s book has stirred controversy with its thesis: traditional gender roles have been pushed by the media and government post-September 11th in order to maintain our sense of national strength. In the introduction she indicates that this is only one facet of our response to the event. Ultimately, many of Faludi’s arguments are common, though she is the first to filter them so consistently through a gendered lens: tragedies bring out people’s fears and, therefore,
Mar 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-s-studies
A little depressing. Faludi doing what she really does best, which is be a second-wave feminist focusing on what the third wave has forgotten about - gains women made and are now losing in jobs as firefighters, or just anything besides widows and teacher. It is a bit disjointed, as is all her work because she struggles to put in so much information. It always bothers me when critics try to imply that she's poorly researched. Um, no. She does put more anecdotal evidence in than I would expect of ...more
Jan 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Ask yourself this: When London and Madrid suffered terrorist attacks, why didn't they react the same way the United States did?

The answer lies in our nation's particular history, and the bloody settling of the frontier that left its imprint on our collective psyche and resulted in myth-making that persists to this day.

Susan Faludi is a thorough writer, and her intricately-documented style that she showed in her earlier book "Backlash," is evident in her most recent work.

Fascinating stuff, and th
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am in the middle of this book. I am reminded of the pernicious many headed hydra of misogyny and how it is inextricable with war. i am also reminded of how much susan faludi rocks, and how i wish she would bring more than just her clear and analytic style to the page, but wish more for her to bring her seeking and resistant voice to the page as well, to offer alternatives that feel more grounded.
Oct 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a really difficult book to read: not dense, but a bit traumatic. The first half of the book is chock full of 9-11 memorabilia, most of which you might rather forget. The second half is less car-crash mesmerizing, and a bit random, but her main argument, that we should have spent our post 9-11 time discussing reality instead of rehashing mythology, is solid.
Nov 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I'm only a few chapters in, but once again I'm awed by the perceptive and analytical focus that Faludi shines on her topics. If you haven't read Stiffed or Backlash, shame on you! If you have, you'll appreciate and love this book. A tough read that involves finally truly looking at what the aftermath of 9/11 really has been.
Adriana Herrera
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A FASCINATING look at Post-9/11 America and how it impacted American consciousness. This is definitely in the strident second-wave feminist camp, but I appreciated the analysis about virility, toxic masculinity. I think she missed a lot of opportunities, but overall a really interesting read.
Elevate Difference
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Many people are rightfully weary of discussing and analyzing 9/11. While it could be labeled insensitivity, it more likely has to do with a stifled national discourse, repugnant media spin, and a lack of in-depth processing. For the past several years, we’ve all been hibernating, trying to escape the aftermath of the terrorist attacks rather than actively deconstruct their meaning. The myth of American national security was shattered in 2001, and our belief that we—both as a nation and as indivi ...more
Jul 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
As always, I really enjoy reading a Susan Faludi book. It's a marvel to behold the breadth and diversity of sources that she finds to support her assertions. It's always a scholarly rather than an outraged approach to the topic at hand (although still biased--but I can handle biased), and however relentlessly the author pushes examples into your face she never tells you what to think about the situation. You come to your own conclusions. Such a relief after reading that Maureen Dowd book, which ...more
Greg Brown
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An astonishingly informative and intelligent and relentless book, albeit one that really changes gears about two-thirds through. The book starts by dissecting the shift in post-9/11 discourse as the media—unable to track down Bin Laden, explain how or why it happened, or find any emotional closure—reverted back to a traditional narrative of women being in danger and men charging in to save them and sacrifice themselves. This doesn't sound all that dangerous, until Faludi goes into incredible and ...more
Oct 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Susan Faludi's meticulous documentation of the post 9/11 mythos and its impact upon the roles of women and feminism. Fascinating stuff, especially the early American captivity narratives that chronicle how women captured by Indians usually survived and often fought back or negotiated their way out of captivity. Those narratives were later changed by men to re-cast women as helpless virginal victims of the dark Native American villains. Jump forward in time to Jessica Lynch and the media fable th ...more
Jan 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I could go on for days about this book! Once again, Faludi has meticulously researched a subject and given a million and one reasons for her conclusions. A reader may or may not agree with her point of view, but no one can ever accuse her of not being able to back-up her argument!

The first part of the book focused on 9/11 and how the media immediately went into overdrive to cast women - in general and specific to the attack - as victims (even though the actual victims of the attack were male by
Oct 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to cut thru 9/11 hype
Susan Faludi turns out an impressive and rigorous tome here on the twists and turns in our thinking since 9/11.

It's chock full of footnotes, words that made me wish I was near my dictionary (making this not a very good airport book, I discovered) and impressive intellectual scrutiny. But, in some ways, it was too much of an intellectual exercise for me --- I found myself hungry for an actual connection with the writer, a sense that we are in this together, or that we can actually do something a
Oct 30, 2007 rated it liked it
In this case, "what I learned from this book" seems more appropriate than ever. The book posits America's response to 9/11 against historical incidences in America's past that elicited similar responses. More plainly: throughout America's history, whenever the sanctity of the home/frontier/motherland was threatened, be it by Indians or terrorists, there were always strong movements to retreat to imagined male & female roles. Strong protector; weak, docile women.
The worst stuff, though, was read
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in feminism or 21st century media
Shelves: nonfiction, 2007
This is the best thing I've read all year. Faludi's style is informational but compelling, so don't look for a ton of conversational style or intense slice of life pieces. Instead she piles on the facts, making for a weighty argument that feels completely fresh and previously unexplored.

The last third of the book is a movement in tone, as it focuses mostly on tying historical themes to the War on Terror. Its still really interesting, but it does feel like she's squeezing a lot in to one book. St
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Sorry, I am a feminist, but I'm not sure I buy into the basic concept in this book - that 9/11 made it okay to declare open season on prominent feminists in particular and on feminism in general. Somehow I missed this and I think I was present from 9/11 to today. Just maybe, this is another academic brouhaha?
Really interesting but somehow missed the mark of great. I recommend reading it though.
Feb 12, 2011 is currently reading it
Thought is dead. Long live irresponsible picky-choosey mass media narrative.
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A sharp and damning analysis of American culture and media after 9-11. This book deserved more attention.
May 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Perspective requires time. With six years having passed since the events of September 11, 2001, we are beginning to see some critical analysis not only of the ramifications of that day but how we responded as a nation. In The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America , Susan Faludi provides a unique view of our response. Even if you don't agree with her, her case is both well-researched and well-written.[return][return]Faludi, an award-winning journalist and author, argues that afte ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this at random from the backlist for upcoming author events. WOW. Faludi nails it in her explanation of why the U.S. is so "unsafe" and unprepared for another 9/11 like attack. Her basic thesis is how and why hero worship trumped any analysis of the 9/11 attacks and any discussion of how we might be better prepared to prevent future attacks. Bottom line? Be afraid, be very afraid.

I can't quite say enough about how eye opening this book is.

Susan Faludi will be in Pittsburgh in February 20
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, feminism
A book I started fully intending not to finish because the subject of american feminism in the immediate post-9/11 era seemed so far away from me. But lo, it explained so much of why and how american feminism was forced back 30 years in the blink of an eye (or rather during the course of six odd months of intense smear campaigns). It's not far away, it's going on world wide, right now.
Well worth the read.
Sep 19, 2008 rated it liked it
To sum up: the first section and the conclusion were good; the second section dragged and I could have done without it.

In full: The idea of the book is that in the wake of 9/11, instead of dealing with and confronting the reality of the tragedy, America instead created a myth of masculine heroes and feminine victims; this wasn't the first time Americans reverted to such a myth, but instead it was one instance in a long line of instances, dating back to the Puritans. I felt like she made a solid
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Susan C. Faludi (born April 18, 1959) is an American humanist, journalist and author. She won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1991, for a report on the leveraged buyout of Safeway Stores, Inc., a report that the Pulitzer Prize committee commended for depicting the "human costs of high finance".

Faludi was born to a Jewish family in Queens, New York in 1959 and grew up in Yorktown Hei

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