Reflect

The mission of On the Same Page is to foster our sense of community through a shared reading experience that encompasses all of Hamilton County.

Now that you have read The Submission, what relevance do you see to our city, our neighborhoods, our lives?

Discussion Questions

  1. The author has said in an interview that a theme in The Submission is "the conflict, almost, between principle and emotion." How does that conflict play out in the book, and how has it played out in national and international reaction to the 9/11 attacks? Can principle and emotion be reconciled in such circumstances?
  2. Waldman began writing the book before the controversy over the building of the Muslim community center in lower Manhattan that came to be known as the "Ground Zero mosque." What echoes of the actual controversy do you see in The Submission, where 9/11 and the World Trade Center attacks are never actually mentioned?
  3. What are the major ways in which you believe that 9/11 has transformed American society? Have the events of 9/11 changed your mind about what it means to be American?
  4. How did you react to Mo's dilemma about defining himself as a Muslim and as an American when public controversy put those two parts of his identity into conflict? Are there groups (social, religious, ethnic, political, etc.) that you consider to be an important part of your own personal and public identity, and how do you choose which is most important? How influential do you think "identity politics" are in this election year?
  5. Designing memorials involves sensitive decisions, and the results are often controversial. Waldman has said that one of her inspirations for The Submission was the controversy over Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam War memorial. What parallels do you see? If you could design a national or local memorial, how would you memorialize the victims and heroes of 9/11?
  6. Cincinnati has had several conflicts over controversial public art. Which do you remember? What do those conflicts say about the nature of public art, about democracy, and about our community?
  7. Which character's story in The Submission is most compelling to you? Why? Which character do you find least convincing? The characters clearly embody diverse viewpoints—are there any viewpoints that you think were left out? As a New York Times reporter, Waldman interviewed survivors and family members of the World Trade Center attack, but when she was writing The Submission, she decided not to do any further interviews. What do you think about that decision?
  8. What do you think of the role of the reporter Alyssa Spier and the press in general in the events of The Submission? Is it an accurate portrayal in your opinion? Do you believe that the media behave responsibly or irresponsibly in covering public controversies like this?
  9. What do you know about Islamic religion and culture? How well do you feel they are represented by the characters of Mo, Asma, the members of the Muslim American Coordinating Council, or the counter-protesters involved in the headscarf incident? What new aspects of Islam did their different viewpoints introduce you to?
  10. Did you like the ending of the book? Why do you think Waldman chose to end it that way?

Please visit the publisher's reading group guide for more discussion questions.