Sept. 11 Plays a Role in Coming-of-Age Novel The Emperor's Children is a new novel that chronicles the lives of three friends trying to make their mark in Manhattan in 2001 — and then come the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and their lives are changed forever.

Sept. 11 Plays a Role in Coming-of-Age Novel

Sept. 11 Plays a Role in Coming-of-Age Novel

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children. Derek Sharpton hide caption

toggle caption
Derek Sharpton


Messud talks about how she wrestled with terrorists, the meaning of "personal myth" and whether her Emperor has no clothes.

When the Sept.11 attacks occurred, novelist Claire Messud first questioned what fiction could do to address the event. For her, it seemed a time most appropriate for poetry. Yet she did end up writing about the attacks in the novel she was working on at the time. The Emperor's Children has been praised for its handling of Sept. 11, even though the book is not primarily about the events of that day.

Central to her novel are her characters, a handful of entertaining 30-year-old Brown graduates who moved to New York City expecting to do something important with their lives, and Bootie, a college drop-out from Watertown, N.Y., who seeks the highest standard of truth from himself and the people he admires.

Author Claire Messud talks with Madeleine Brand about her new novel and how and why she decided to bring the terrorist attacks of five years ago into the book.

The Emperor's Children
By Claire Messud

Buy Featured Book

The Emperor's Children
Claire Messud

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?