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The Submission by Amy Waldman

The Submission (2011)

by Amy Waldman

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
The plot, simply stated: in a design competition for a 9/11 memorial, the winner is a Muslim; controversy ensues.

After the first chapter or two, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. The characters seemed a little too stock. But the complexities grew. The author is very good at developing the nuances of each competing side of the controversy that I was forced to wonder, "What decision would I make if I were on the competition's jury?" I thought I had my mind made up in the beginning; by the end I wasn't so sure.

The characters can sometimes be exasperating, but given the heat of the posited situation, I think that's the truth. (I have to admit that I never fully understood the mind of the designer at the center of the controversy, but he was a conflicted character--I'm not sure he fully understood himself, torn by the various forces around and within him.)

The author also has a way with words. Some of her passages were sterling. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
thoroughly enjoyable, creative and ironic critique of american culture. a great read and an excellent choice for book clubs, even non fiction focused ones. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
There were parts of this book that really worked, but overall it suffered from the author's failure to decide what kind of book she was trying to write. Swaths of the book read like satire, and overall the satire is better than decent. But then the book turns in another direction, toward straight ahead drama and an examination of healing and hate, and that part of the book bounces between pedestrian and straight up ridiculous. The writer created characters like the Post "journalist" and the Governor who are pure satire, but then she plunks them down in the middle of an earnest allegory. It makes the whole sort of ridiculous. Imagine Buck Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove being featured in Saving Private Ryan. So reading this as satire there are situations and characters which are too straightforward and objective, and reading it as a serious novel which explores America's anti-Islam direction and the ways in which it isolates us it is a book filled with underdeveloped characters. Some of those characters are straight up Snidely Whiplash evil (Debbie Dawson, Alyssa Spier, the governor) and some are imbued only with everything good and noble (Asma, Leila), and not one reads like a real person. There are things to like here, its a fantastic premise, but a surer writer would have been very welcome. ( )
  Narshkite | Dec 23, 2014 |
A jury of 12 people, including artists, politicians, and a family member, select a design for the memorial for the 9/11 bombing site in New York City. Because the process is blind, they do not know that the architect of the winning design is Mohammed Khan, an American Muslim. The reactions are swift and varied. Waldman explores the nuances of the reactions from family members, politicians, the American Muslim community, Conservative radio, and more. She deeply explores their certainties and their doubt, creating no purely good or purely bad people, but a range of people who wrestle with a complex decision. All in all, I was very impressed with how she handled a difficult topic. ( )
  porch_reader | Aug 30, 2014 |
The Submission was like a good Tom Wolfe novel without the excessive description. It presents a kaleidoscopic view of New York as it deals with a controversy after a jury in a blind selection process chose a design for the 9/11 memorial that was done by an (atheist, non-believing) Muslim. The characters are all familiar New Yorkers: the urbane architect, the widow who was married to an investment banker, the distinguished former head of an investment bank who chairs the jury as a step towards even better boards, the dead firefighter's brother whose reinfuses his life with purpose by rallying against the memorial design, the Iranian lawyer with a foot in the Muslim community and a foot in publicity, the New York Post's sensationalist reporter, the ambitious governor and most poignantly an undocumented Bangladeshi widow of a janitor who dies on 9/11.

Every one of these characters are familiar, almost a stereotype, but they are also all presented with an impressive degree of sympathy, understanding of their motives, and a presentation of how they are unsure of what they are doing.

Amy Waldman also does an impressive job of taking what seems like a clever concept and turning it into a full novel, as the plot develops and incident builds on incident, culminating in a every effective ending. And she takes what I still think of as a morally black-and-white issue but finds interesting ambiguities and questions and dilemmas that emerge from it.

The Submission has a lot of good writing and interesting phrases, but it is not an exercise in flashy writing or novel storytelling methods, instead it is more about its range of subjects and the dilemmas it presents. It is not meant as an insult to the book to say that it would be a good choice as required reading in high schools where you could picture the endless discussions of the various dilemmas it poses, as well as a lesson in intolerance and bigotry. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
While there is no shortage of American writers who bemoan all that has been done to their nation, by their nation, in the name of 9/11, there has been, until now, a dearth of American novels exploring that particular trajectory (there is a dearth of American novelists exploring what has been done to other nations by their nation, too, but that's another matter). There are, of course, various ideas about why this is so. One of them is this: how do you take the trauma and grief of 9/11 as the starting point of a novel and move on to a tale of suspended civil liberties and prejudice without the former entirely overshadowing the latter? Waldman takes hold of this potential stumbling block and turns it into the bedrock of her novel. The grief surrounding 9/11 – the forms it takes, the claims it makes, the claims made in its name by third parties, the hierarchy which surrounds it (not all griefs are equal), the guilt and anger which are born from it, the gulf between the silence of private grief and the clamour of public grief – is central to this exceptional debut about a changing America.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Kamila Shamsie (Aug 27, 2011)
“The Submission” is set not in 2010 but in 2003, and concerns not a mosque but a 9/11 memorial. A jury, assembled by the state’s governor, has spent months reviewing architects’ anonymous submissions for a monument to be built on the site of the tragedy. Finally, a winner is selected: the design is called “The Garden” (in contrast with the other finalist, “The Void”), and its detractors can fault it only for being “too beautiful.” But once the choice is settled and a name attached to the blueprints, the jury discovers, to its alarm, that the architect is a Muslim named Mohammad Khan.

Elegantly written and tightly plotted, “The Submission” ultimately remains a novel about the unfolding of a dramatic situation — a historian’s novel — rather than a novel that explores the human condition with any profundity. And yet in these unnerving times, in which Waldman has seen facts take the shape of her fiction, a historian’s novel at once lucid, illuminating and entertaining is a necessary and valuable gift.
added by kidzdoc | editNew York Times, Claire Messud (Aug 21, 2011)
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Like the cypress tree, which holds its head high and is free within the confines of a garden, I, too, feel free in this world, and I am not bound by its attachments.
To my parents, Don and Marilyn Waldman
First words
"The names," Claire said. "What about the names?"
"Didn't you listen to her speech? She was saying terrorists shouldn't count more than people like her husband. But your questions - the suspicions they contain - make them count more. You assume we all must think like them unless we prove otherwise."
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Book description
Ten years after the events of September 11, 2011, Claire Burwell a member on a jury that gathered to anonymously appoint the architect for a memorial, is confronted with public outrage when the media leaks that the winner is an American Muslim and is forced to face journalists, activists, and politicians while trying to find the best way to remember and understand the national tragedy.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374271569, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: Amy Waldman has performed a rare and dangerous feat in writing an airtight, multi-viewed, highly readable post-9/11 novel. When a Muslim architect wins a blind contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial, a city of eleven million people takes notice. Waldman, a former bureau chief for the New York Times, explores a diversity of viewpoints around this fictional event, bringing in politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists, and normal people whose lives--whether by happenstance, choice, or even due to their country of origin--get caught up in the controversy. Incredibly, she manages to keep all the balls in the air without ever fumbling. The story is moving and keeps the pages turning, but there are also bigger themes at work: of individuals versus groups; about the purpose of art, commerce, government, and journalism in society; of how people respond to grief and terror. The result is honest, compelling, and breathtaking.--Chris Schluep

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Selected for a jury that must choose an appropriate memorial for September 11 victims, Claire Harwell struggles to navigate a media firestorm when the winning designer is revealed as an enigmatic Muslim-American.

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