The Submission

The Submission

by Amy Waldman

Overview: Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name—and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country’s.

The memorial’s designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself—as unknowable as he is gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.

In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman’s cast of characters is matched by her startling ability to conjure their perspectives. A striking portrait of a fractured city striving to make itself whole, The Submission is a piercing and resonant novel by an important new talent.

Gail Reid 08/31/14): What I like so much about The Submission are the many layers of ethical viewpoints and concerns. Definitely a strong candidate of a book to discuss in a reading group. Thirteen years after September 11th, a range of sentiments resonate with all of us.

Thanks to all for the recommendation!
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (07/29/14): Despite the fact that 9/11 was 13 years ago, we are still exposed, almost every day, to the question of how we as Americans and especially as Jews view Islam. It is a thought provoking challenge for even the most liberal among us, like Claire in the book, who works at being reasonable and judging people as individuals, not by their religion, but by their personal actions. So, this book definitely makes the reader think. As a former public relations professional, I was interested in how organizations worked to impact public opinion through staging events and holding press conferences. Sometimes, I found the back-and-forth dizzying, almost overwhelming, trying to just keep tabs on who was taking what stand. I wanted to know sooner what would happen to Mo's design. Again, being in PR, I could see how his lack on candor and unwillingness to work with his supporters could undermine his chances at success. A good read.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (07/20/14): Arlene has summarized the plot of this novel very well. In memory of the 09/11 attack, a memorial is to be built to remember all those who perished on that day. A contest is held to determine the design of this 09/11 memorial. Anyone is allowed to submit a design for consideration and the winner is to be selected by a panel of judges. The panel is to make the selection without knowing anything about the people who make the submissions.

A winning design is selected. When the creator of the design is identified, things get complicated. The book is about what happens when the winner is controversial. Do you rescind the decision? Do you open up the decision-making process to the public at large? It concentrates on the thought processes of the judges --- how their minds change back and forth and it tries to capture the raw emotion that existed in our country after that historic attack. This was a very thought-provoking book.
Rating: ****

Arlene Almas (09/15/11): This is a book that could not be any more timely: it's a fictional account of the selection of a design for the 9/11 Ground Zero memorial. A panel of thirteen judges comprising architects, designers, artists, art critics, and one woman representing the victims' families has been chosen to review all designs submitted. Unlike the actual process, in which prominent architects and landscape designers were invited to participate, in the novel submissions have been accepted from anyone; during this phase, the judges have been given no information regarding the person who submitted each design. When they have narrowed the choices down to two designs, Claire, representing the families, convinces the panel to choose the Garden, a beautiful setting with trees, flowing water, and walls on which to inscribe the names of those who perished. At this point the judges are given the name and other information concerning the architect who submitted the Garden design, and the reason for their shock is the catalyst for all the events to follow. I found both the story and the writing very realistic, and I couldn't help imagining what I would have done if I were in the place of any of the characters.
Rating: *****

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