Index for September 11th was born out of a tumultuous adolescence spent in a rapidly changing world. It describes the transition from girl to woman that occurred between 2001 and 2011. During this decade, the author moved from Michigan to New York City, survived several bouts of major depression, graduated from college, and learned how to navigate the world as an adult. The index format of the text was inspired by a poem devised by the writer Ander Monson. For Howell, the index format felt well-suited to the subject matter — it allowed her to categorize and classify disparate events, emotions, and encounters that occurred over an extended period of time. She comes to terms with her heritage, her family, and her own unending (and at times agonizing) search for personal and professional fulfillment. Major themes include the resilience of the female body, mental health, and the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
Caronae Howell is a physician and writer living and working in Arizona with her husband and dog. She studied history and human rights at Columbia University and received her medical doctorate from Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Her poetry and essays have been published in a variety of local and national anthologies and The New York Times. She is currently training to become a vascular surgeon. She is particularly interested in the intersections between poetry, surgery, and the human body.
Caronae Howell’s Index for September 11th teaches us how to keep steady in a world full of simultaneous wonder and violence. A switchboard of synaptical loss, this is a book which accumulates both personal and collective memory, a glimpse into an archive of survival.
— Ching-In Chen, 2019 Judge, Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize for Poetry
In this deeply innovative debut, Howell explores a truth often lost around September 11th: it was experienced collectively and — for each person — alone. She writes, ‘You don’t go telling me how to throb / You don’t go telling me / where I was on the morning or / what I felt or / how I came to the skeleton all unbuttoned, / undone, naked, queasy: the last girl to mourn.’ And then, ‘An entire adolescence exploded in a building,’ a premise on which the book follows through. This collection transcends time and plunges into narratives of loneliness, desire, identity, resilience, and family lore. Howell’s eye for the real story is all encompassing, and her command of language is awe inspiring.
— Jon Sands, author of It’s Not Magic
Index for September 11th is full of unexpected, piercing lines that evoke recognition and awe in a cartography of disaster, desire, and coming of age. Howell brilliantly cleaves and alchemizes to make sense of the profound wreckage of September 11th in this love song turned spell turned litany. Unafraid to name, confess, and yearn, Howell’s book brings loss close to our faces in order to evoke the love and bravery of daring to live through disaster.
— Arhm Choi Wild