Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Submission by Amy Waldman


A selection panel gathers in Manhattan.  Their job is to pick the architect vision of the memorial that will honor the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack.  The jury is composed of artists, family members of those killed, and movers and shakers of New York society.  The final decision is made from the anonymous entries.  Then the envelope is opened and the architect is revealed.  He is a Muslim American.

Immediately controversy erupts.   While everyone claims not to be racist, there is kickback against the plan due only to the man's ethnic background.  He was born in the United States and has only visited the terrorist area once when he was sent by his firm to submit plans for a new American embassy in Afghanistan.  But that is all lost in the immediate shouts.

There are many players in the aftermath.  There is Mo, the architect who takes the position that he is as American as anyone else and doesn't have to reveal his thoughts or inspirations.  The most common complaint is that the garden memorial he has designed is really a martyr's garden meant to honor the terrorists rather than the victims.  There are politicians and media people who use the controversy to further their careers.  There is the family member on the panel who is rich and reserved.  She originally supports the selection but as Mo refuses to discuss his ideas she slowly starts to be won over to the other side.  There is the brother of a victim who never felt like he could live up to the life of his older brother who lost his life and is leading the opposition so that he can try to win his parents' approval.  There are the Muslim groups that see the selection as a mechanism by which they can bring their goals to fruition.  What will happen?

This book received much acclaim when it was released ten years after 9-11.  It was both a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book of 2011 and one of NPR's 10 Best Novels of 2011.  Amy Waldman has created a book that explores the issues of racism and acceptance.  She adroitly draws characters that exemplify each facet of the controversy and her solution is surprising.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

No comments: