Friday, January 13, 2012
Book Review: "The Submission" by Amy Waldman
This was a fantastic, thought-provoking book.
Two years after the 9/11 attacks, a competition is underway to design a memorial at Ground Zero. A jury composed of noted artists, historians, critics, and Claire Burwell, a young widow whose husband was killed in the attack, has narrowed down the selection to two finalists. After an impassioned discussion led by Claire, the jury selects a winner, known as The Garden. And when the name of the architect is revealed (all submissions were anonymous to this point), a stunning discovery is made. The winner is an American Muslim named Mohammad Khan. The jury is fraught with indecisionshould Khan be disqualified because of his religion, since Americans would most certainly not want a memorial designed by a Muslim? When news of Khan's selection hits the public, New Yorkersand those across the worldare fueled by twin arguments. Some adamantly demand that Khan withdraw from the competition, while others feel that unfairly tarring all Muslim people as terrorists is a dangerous behavior. The debate over whether or not Khan should be disqualified ripples into a conversation about whose grief carries more weight, who should be the final say about a decision with the potential to affect the world, and what makes a person an American.
Amy Waldman did a fantastic job with this, her first novel. She deftly evokes a troubling time in our not-too-distant history, giving voice to all facets of the anger, fear, sadness, and hatred that emerged following 9/11. Waldman never takes sides in the argument, yet allows her well-drawn characters to explore the familiar and uncomfortable. A few times while reading this book I worried that Waldman would take the plot down a path that I didn't feel would be true to the story, but she surprised me each time. I did feel at times that there were too many characters to keep straight, but that didn't affect my overall feelings. This is a book that will make you think, it may anger or sadden you, but in the end you'll realize what power it contains. Truly amazing.