Cover of The Submission by Amy Waldman
How has America changed since 9/11? What does it mean to be American? A former New York Times reporter explores these questions in her first novel about a controversial memorial to the victims of a terrorist attack.

The Book

The Submission explores how 9/11 has challenged our personal convictions and changed the public debate on what it means to be American.

A jury charged with choosing the design for a memorial to those who died in a terrorist attack selects an anonymous winning design, only to discover that its creator is an American Muslim. Deeply conflicted, they can imagine what a firestorm of controversy their choice will cause.

And of course it does. The story is told through the eyes of characters on all sides of the controversy, including a widow of one of the victims (the jury member who most passionately supports the winning design), outraged protesters representing the families of the victims, the widow of an illegal immigrant killed in the attack, and the winning designer himself, the assimilated son of immigrant parents who has never thought much about his Muslim heritage until he becomes the symbol of his religion and the focus for the controversy.

Regular print, large print, audio, and downloadable audio editions of the book are available at the library.

Discussion questions, further reading, related viewing, web resources, and teacher resources are all available through this website to expand your appreciation of the book.

Reviews

Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

"The Submission is a gorgeously written novel of ideas about America in the wake of September 11. It tackles subjects like identity politics, undocumented immigrants and the stress fractures of democracy."

Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Waldman, formerly a New York Times reporter and co-chief of the South Asia bureau, maps shadowy psychological terrain and a vast social minefield as conflicted men and woman confront life-and-death moral quandaries within the glare and din of a media carnival. Waldman brilliantly delineates the legacy of 9/11; the confluence of art, religion, and politics; the plexus between the individual and the group; and the glory of transcendent empathy in The Bonfire of the Vanities for our time."

The Daily Mail

"The Submission is a searching, cerebral novel with the pitch and pace of a thriller. Shorn of subplots, it’s as driven as its ambitious protagonists. Amy Waldman is an experienced journalist, and her biting sketches of cynical hacks and scripted shock-jocks ring true, as she scrutinizes the link between art works and their creators. Acute and exhilarating."

Excerpt

There it was and going fast—the [newspaper with] the photo of an unidentifiable man in a balaclava, scary as a terrorist. The headline: MYSTERY MUSLIM MEMORIAL MESS.
...
[Mo] waited for the rustling to die down before holding up the Post with the picture of the ski-mask-clad face. "My name is Mohammad Khan, and I believe this is meant to be me." Flashbulbs popped, cameras clicked—for a moment, the only sounds in the room.
"I am an architect and an American," he said. "I also happen to be a Muslim. I was born in Virginia and have lived most of my adult life in New York. In Manhattan. I entered the memorial competition because I believed my idea would provide a way for the families, the nation to mourn and to remember all that was lost that day, and also to heal. Apparently the jury agreed: everyone knows by now they chose my design." He gestured at illustrations of a garden, placed on an easel to his right. "It seems they just have a problem with the designer."
pp. 51, 91-92