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The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception
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The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception

4.0 42
by Robin Gaby Fisher
 

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 It was a tale of loss and recovery, of courage and sorrow, of horror and inspiration. Tania Head’s astonishing account of her experience on September 11, 2001—from crawling through the carnage and chaos to escaping the seventy-eighth-floor sky lobby of the burning south tower to losing her fiancé in the collapsed north tower—transformed

Overview

 It was a tale of loss and recovery, of courage and sorrow, of horror and inspiration. Tania Head’s astonishing account of her experience on September 11, 2001—from crawling through the carnage and chaos to escaping the seventy-eighth-floor sky lobby of the burning south tower to losing her fiancé in the collapsed north tower—transformed her into one of the great victims and heroes of that tragic day.

Tania selflessly took on the responsibility of giving a voice and a direction to the burgeoning World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, helping save the “Survivor Stairway” and leading tours at Ground Zero, including taking then-governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, and former mayor Giuliani on the inaugural tour of the WTC site. She even used her own assets to fund charitable events to help survivors heal. But there was something very wrong with Tania’s story—a terrible secret that would break the hearts and challenge the faith of all those she claimed to champion.

Told with the unique insider perspective and authority of Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr., a filmmaker shooting a documentary on the efforts of the Survivors’ Network, and previously one of Tania’s closest friends, The Woman Who Wasn’t There is the story of one of the most audacious and bewildering quests for acclaim in recent memory—one that poses fascinating questions about the essence of morality and the human need for connection at any cost.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tania Head is one of the most famous September 11 survivors, with an amazing story of perseverance. After escaping the 96th floor of the South Tower and suffering the loss of her fiancé in the North Tower, she helped found the highly influential World Trade Center Survivor Network. But her account, and even her name, turned out to be a complete fabrication when Head is found to be a delusional, pathological liar. In this disturbing, riveting reporting of Head’s tenure as the face of the survivor movement, Fisher (After the Fire) and Guglielmo (a filmmaker) depict a woman who inspires anger and heartbreak but also admiration. Head first appears in 2003, sharing her story with an online support group for survivors. At the time, everyone other than first responders and families of the dead are overlooked; survivors are never allowed private access at the site, given scant attention from the media, and their families, friends, employers, and doctors have little understanding of their grief and guilt. Head, aided by her incredible account and a seemingly indomitable spirit, successfully transforms the network of survivors from a nonentity to one that becomes a very visible force with a say in countless matters pertaining to the World Trade Center. It’s only in 2007, on the eve of the sixth anniversary, after the New York Times decides to profile her, that Head and her story unravel. A documentary made by Guglielmo about Head will debut on television later this year. (Apr.)
The Star Tribune
"A riveting real-life mystery, a probe into the inner depths of humanity. This is a page-turner for every American."
Meredith Vieira
"I finished reading this book weeks ago, but I can't put it down. It continues to haunt me and it will you as well. A story impossible to believe...except it's all true."
Terence Winter
“Alternately heartbreaking and horrifying, The Woman Who Wasn't There is a compelling real-life mystery as disturbing as a psychological thriller. The depths of Tania Head's deception hit me like a punch in the gut.”
Marian Fontana
"Thought provoking, heart wrenching, and unbelievable... Even knowing the outcome, I could not put the book down, awed by the stunning impact of one woman on so many lives."
Amy Ellis Nutt
“Taut and riveting as a mystery novel, except that it's all true. The tale of Tania Head, the ‘celebrity survivor’ is a fascinating psychological study of the best and worst of human nature. In their deft, compelling narrative, Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. slowly, but inexorably, lift the curtain on one of the saddest, senseless, and yet most spectacular frauds in recent history. You will not be able to put this book down until you finish the last sentence, and when you do, you will shake your head in wonder.”
John J. Farmer
“Not since Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man has a con been portrayed in such an empathetic and yet unsparing manner. At the end of Fisher and Guglielmo's masterfully nuanced portrait, Tania Head's deception of the survivors becomes understandable — even as it remains unforgivable — as a remarkable outgrowth of the capacity of the human psyche to deceive others by deceiving itself first."
Alice M. Greenwald
“Through the prism of a virtually inconceivable web of lies, Robin Gay Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. offer deep and compassionate insight into the true legacy of pain, guilt, and existential challenges facing those who experienced and lived through the terror of the September 11 attacks.”
Bob Giles
"Filmmaker Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr., who became one of Tania’s closest friends, teamed with prize-winning journalist Robin Gaby Fisher to write a compelling insider’s view of this audacious post-9/11 episode and the mysteries that remain about motive and morality. ... A fascinating read."
Sandy Padwe
"It's a terrific read. The reporting is tremendous. Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr. have written a detailed and memorable account of the woman who betrayed countless World Trade Center survivors.”
From the Publisher
"I finished reading this book weeks ago, but I can't put it down. It continues to haunt me and it will you as well. A story impossible to believe...except it's all true."

“Alternately heartbreaking and horrifying, The Woman Who Wasn't There is a compelling real-life mystery as disturbing as a psychological thriller. The depths of Tania Head's deception hit me like a punch in the gut.”

"Thought provoking, heart wrenching, and unbelievable... Even knowing the outcome, I could not put the book down, awed by the stunning impact of one woman on so many lives."

“Taut and riveting as a mystery novel, except that it's all true. The tale of Tania Head, the ‘celebrity survivor’ is a fascinating psychological study of the best and worst of human nature. In their deft, compelling narrative, Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. slowly, but inexorably, lift the curtain on one of the saddest, senseless, and yet most spectacular frauds in recent history. You will not be able to put this book down until you finish the last sentence, and when you do, you will shake your head in wonder.”

“Not since Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man has a con been portrayed in such an empathetic and yet unsparing manner. At the end of Fisher and Guglielmo's masterfully nuanced portrait, Tania Head's deception of the survivors becomes understandable — even as it remains unforgivable — as a remarkable outgrowth of the capacity of the human psyche to deceive others by deceiving itself first."

“Through the prism of a virtually inconceivable web of lies, Robin Gay Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. offer deep and compassionate insight into the true legacy of pain, guilt, and existential challenges facing those who experienced and lived through the terror of the September 11 attacks.”

"Filmmaker Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr., who became one of Tania’s closest friends, teamed with prize-winning journalist Robin Gaby Fisher to write a compelling insider’s view of this audacious post-9/11 episode and the mysteries that remain about motive and morality. ... A fascinating read."

"It's a terrific read. The reporting is tremendous. Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr. have written a detailed and memorable account of the woman who betrayed countless World Trade Center survivors.”

"In this disturbing, riveting reporting of Head’s tenure as the face of the survivor movement, Fisher (After the Fire) and Guglielmo (a filmmaker) depict a woman who inspires anger and heartbreak but also admiration."

"A riveting real-life mystery, a probe into the inner depths of humanity. This is a page-turner for every American."

New York Post
“What emerges is a biography of one of the most loathsome liars in recent history. The prevailing — and largely unanswered question — remains: Why would someone do something so despicable?”
Amy Ellis Nut
“Taut and riveting as a mystery novel, except that it's all true. The tale of Tania Head, the ‘celebrity survivor’ is a fascinating psychological study of the best and worst of human nature. In their deft, compelling narrative, Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. slowly, but inexorably, lift the curtain on one of the saddest, senseless, and yet most spectacular frauds in recent history. You will not be able to put this book down until you finish the last sentence, and when you do, you will shake your head in wonder.”
Library Journal
It's not often that readers encounter a riveting fictional character in a nonfiction book, but that's exactly what happens when they pick up this title. Fisher (After the Fire: A True Story of Friendship and Survival) and filmmaker Guglielmo offer a gripping account of one of the most disturbing scams perpetrated in recent U.S. history, bringing readers close to Tanya Head, a walking enigma. Head, claiming to be a 9/11 survivor, brought national attention to fellow survivors of the World Trade Center attacks, but as she helped give hope, courage, and direction to a group of people who needed it, her hidden past threatened to pull everything down. Readers will ride the highs and lows of Head's short but brilliant burst into the national scene. VERDICT This is a fantastic read, cowritten by a man (Guglielmo) whom Head herself asked to film her group for a documentary. The authors' intimacy with their subject makes for a page-turning unveiling of Head's true identity. Recommended for readers who enjoy gripping true crime and tales of deception and survival.—Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake P.L., VA
Kirkus Reviews
The story of the startling disclosure of a 9/11 survivor who wasn't actually there. Fisher (Narrative Journalism/Rutgers Univ.; After the Fire, 2008, etc.) and filmmaker Guglielmo team up to bring readers a page-turning account of Tania Head, a survivor of the World Trade Center attacks. Vivid details place readers at the scene of 9/11 during and after the attacks, which may be painful reading for some readers. Injured when one of the planes struck the 78th-floor sky lobby of the South Tower, Head not only survived this near-death experience but also bore the tragedy of losing her new husband in the collapse of the North Tower. She rose to acclaim in the years after 9/11 by starting the World Trade Center Survivors' Network, where guilt-laden men and women could openly voice their distress about the events of that day. Head also helped lead the campaign to save the Survivor Stairway, "thirty-seven steps that had once connected the plaza outside the towers to the street below," which was used by hundreds fleeing the buildings on 9/11. However, as the narrative progresses, readers begin to see small discrepancies in Head's story, along with her terrible mood swings and violent physical reactions to reliving that fateful day. Under extreme pressure to conduct an interview with the New York Times in 2007, Head broke down, and her elaborate and fake story fully emerged. She soon disappeared. Members of the Survivors' Network were left to wonder why someone would go to such lengths to gain notoriety, especially when it involved so many who had survived real damage on that day. A disquieting retelling of 9/11 by one survivor with a surprising twist.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451652109
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
04/03/2012
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
217,188
File size:
3 MB

What People are Saying About This

Meredith Vieira
I finished reading this book weeks ago, but I can't put it down. It continues to haunt me and it will you as well. A story impossible to believe...except it's all true.

Meet the Author

Robin Gaby Fisher is the author of the New York Times bestseller After the Fire. She is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing and a member of a Pulitzer Prize–winning team. She teaches narrative journalism at Rutgers University.
Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr., is the award-winning director of the documentary The Woman Who Wasn’t There, produced by Meredith Vieira Productions. Visit TheWomanWhoWasntThere.com.

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The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Charismatic charlatan, we've all met them. But the story of this woman's deceits, perpetrated against survivors who were on tenuous mental ground to begin with, puts her in the leagues of some of the most famous charismatics history has ever known. Her story takes on sinister undertones as she tries to blame everyone else for her troubles as her real story is slowly exposed. The eyewitnesses to this facinating story, and the authors' retelling of their first-hand experiences is truly chilling in the recountings of deceit, selfishness and an absolute willingness to say or do anything that would discredit those who dared question Ms. Head. To answer some of the less-rated reviewers, how else would you have told this story? Telling it from the perspective of one who had experienced it first-hand gave this reader insights that would not have been possible had it been just a recitation of events. And for the other reviewer who said this book just ends, well, that's where the first-hand story ended for all those people she took in with her poisonous spider web of deceit. Maybe the authors will some day be able to tidy up all the loose ends you'd like to see tied neatly with a bow, but this is NOT fiction, this is a chilling tale of a true-life con-woman, who came from a background of entitlement and never once stopped to think about the effect her lies would have on the people who befriended her. I doubt such a cunning and ruthless woman would sit down with the authors to confess her reasons behind this elaborate and well-thought-out scam. But I would love to see a follow-up on this story someday, maybe culminating in the knowledge that Ms. Head expressed sorrow for what she did to those souls that trusted her with the memories of the worst time in their lives. I doubt anybody thinks that would happen, nobody who would perpetrate something of this heinous magnitude thinks that they're ever wrong. I want to close by saying this is a fascinating read. I read it from cover to cover late into the wee hours of night. Sometimes I wish it had been fiction, as I tend to want to think only the best of people. This is a must-read for anybody who's ever ignored that little warning bell inside themselves, if only to remind themselves to trust their instincts. Kudos to all that gave up a little bit of their soul to tell this fascinating (and disturbing) story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a page-turner. Absolutely fascinating. I saw the authors on the TODAY show and Matt Lauer was over the moon about the book. It's one of those books you don't want to put down and you also don't want it to end. Highly recommended.
SuseNJ More than 1 year ago
Good, readable book, and I learned about the Survivors of 9/11, a forgotten group next to the families of those who died and the rescuers. My main disappointment was that the truth section came only in the last fifth of the book and left many questions about why the woman did what she did and how in the world she could have done it in so much detail. I think the writers could have interviewed her psychiatrist or even other psychiatrists who didn't know the woman to explore the phenomenon and explain how this could have happened, why there was no remorse, etc. The book was more just descriptive (relating the facts) than analytical and thoughtful.
AJsMommy More than 1 year ago
I just finished the book and WOW. I didn't want this book to end. I am amazed at the lengths this crazy women went to just to get attention and love. I highly recommend this book. It is one of those books you can't put down. I now have a much better understanding of what the REAL survivors went through on 9/11 and the aftermath. This is a must read and a great book for book clubs. There is a lot to be discussed and a lot of emotion on those pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very well written riveting tale of a woman's lies as she took advantage of a mourning city. I couldn't put the book down read it start to finish in 3 days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't stop thinking about this story and about all the survivors who suffered this trauma on top of the horror of 9/11. The deceit they suffered was nothing short of evil. And yet, this woman did accomplish important things for the survivors. This is a compelling story you won't be able to put down. You may even forget -- for a moment -- that Tania's story is a lie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing (and true!!!) story! beautifully written. so intriguing! I couldn't put this book down! Move over Hunger Games!!!!
Avalis More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent and the only reason that I am giving it four stars instead of five is that I feel the authors could have examined and written about Tania's background in greater detail back in her native Spain. Instead, her past was given a light treatment that does not go far enough in explaining any psychological issues she may have that can account for her bizarre behavior. I see her as someone suffering from a case of megalomania with a touch of sociopathy and delusion all rolled into one. Other than this, the book is excellent, along with the pace and unfolding of events. It's an excellent book that I recommend highly to anyone who is interested in the events of September 11th, or just anyone looking for a good book to read. By the way, I am Hispanic and Tania is by no means representative of the Hispanics in the US, most of whom are hard-working, honest people. She is more of an aberration. Although she did reach positive goals for the September 11th victims and community, her betrayal and deception in doing so leave one speechless and shaking one's head in disbelief.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone directly affected by 9/11, I remember the need to reach out to others who shared my grief. The thought of someone pretending to be a survivor is baffling to me. This book is a page-turner! I loved how the story unfolded & was very sad to come to the end.
fpaauthor More than 1 year ago
I just finished The Woman who Wasn’t There, and I think I will read this fascinating book again. Ms. Fisher and Mr. Guglielmo have written a fascinating narrative of a fascinating character, “Tania Head,” who perpetrated and unimaginable fraud on New York 9-11 survivors and the American people. Most of the book is devoted to Ms. Head’s ascendency within the WTC Survivors Network and her leadership of this organization. She told a horrific and inspiring tale of personal loss while [ruthlessly one might say] adopting the role of victim, survivor, organizer, and leader. Ironically, she does a lot of good on the macro level along the way and a good bit of harm on a personal level to those closest to her. This book evoked an enormous range of emotions. We all have been personally touched in one way or another by 9/11, and it is hard not to take Ms. Head’s fraud personally and condemn her. It is as if she has stolen from us, and her lies steal from and mock the true heroes and victims. Yet, at other times, it is hard not to feel sorry for her and her pathetic, if not pathological, need for attention. Indeed, she is clearly emotionally unbalanced or worse. I found myself asking myself how this could happen. Did a “small” lie snowball out of control or was Ms. Head’s goal always to rise to such prominence? How could her fraud go undetected so long; did we all have an emotional need for the kind of person she claimed to be? Was she our adopted, or surrogate, survivor? How can one look at oneself in the mirror in the morning knowing you are the embodiment of fraud committed on those most vulnerable – those who really did survive and adapt to the events of 9-11. If I have one criticism of the book it is that it left me wanting more. I wish Mr. Guglielmo had indeed obtained that last interview. Perhaps also the input of a psychologist - “profiling” what type of person, with what disorder(s) could possibly do such a thing – would have been informative. I heartily recommend this compelling read.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
What a compelling heart-wrenching story. You feel the pain that Tania Head experienced. Her world fell apart on the morning of September 11, 2001, she almost lost her own life, and she did loose her beloved Dave, her husband/fiance. She recounts her horrific tale many times in this book, how could you survive all that she has lost? You hear about the angel in the stair-well, with the red-bandana that helps save her life. She in turn helps fill in a void in his parents life, and brings them some feeling of satisfaction on hearing how he helped her. She becomes the head of the World Trade Center Survivor's Network, and she becomes a life line to so many in need. She leads the group in helping save the "Survivor's Stairway". She becomes best friends with Linda Gormley, among others, and when she gets stressed, she treats them terribly. There are several others, that I was worried she was going to put them over the edge, and yet most just were in awe of her. In the end she is a total FAKE! So many people loved and trusted her! Tania actually has a gift of drawing people toward her. This book will linger with you long long after you have turned the last page. You will wonder how someone could live with themselves faking such an unimaginable horror. I received this book from the Publisher Touchstone, and was not required to give a positive review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED THIS BOOK! What a page turner, you won't put it down. Enjoy!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an amazing story, this book exposes one of America's greatest hoaxes. It is well-written and digs deep into the minds of the people. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lisa1976LS More than 1 year ago
WOW!!! Everyone must read this book.........A year later it is still haunting me......
LadyMalph More than 1 year ago
Very interesting that someone could do this to others who have suffered such a tragedy. I got caught up in this book and could not put it down. Easy read. Detailed and left me sitting there at the end wondering....why and how?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing story of a real woman who fooled her friends, the news reporters and the world as well as herself. She is a psychotic mess who turned her world around through her lies. She basically had a good heart and told herself she was telling the truth. Since the end is revealed at the beginning the reader wants to finish the book to find out how she is caught up in her own lies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This jpung author did a great job revealing the truth about 9-11
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be fascinating reading. The author unfolded the story line in such a way that it kept one reading and not wanting to put the book down. Besides being a good read, I was appalled that a person could be so devious and so hurtful to innocent victims. This woman should never be allowed back in the United States.
tka48 More than 1 year ago
incredable story... i could not put the book down.
Sal_bob More than 1 year ago
A very amazing story, a must read. To think that someone could do this is mind boggling.