The Submission by Amy Waldman

I checked this book out in preparation for the Read-a-Thon last month, and I started it in the days following that insanity.  That means I have been reading this book for-evah, y'all.  Almost a month.  Ages.

You might presume it was slow, dense, or otherwise unappealing, but it wasn't at all.  I've just been distracted (still am) by the upcoming move and the ongoing renovation.  It's hard to devote much time to reading when you're fielding phone calls from HVAC and flooring guys and getting the gas turned on (Georgia is ca-razy with its natural gas deregulation business) and having to buy a new water heater and removing the stair treads from your staircase yourself (yes, I did, thank you very much) and painting trim and finding that you can't use a caulk gun properly (how is this possible?) and . . . wait, what was I supposed to be talking about?

Oh, yeah, Amy Waldman's terrific post-9/11 novel The Submission.  It really was wonderful, and my review is not going to do it justice (see the aforementioned distracted-ness), but let me reassure you that Waldman handles a difficult subject with grace and provides much food for thought.  The novel tracks the process of choosing a design (and thus, an architect) for the 9/11 memorial to be constructed in New York on the attack site.  There is a jury made up of artists, political representatives, and Claire, the lone surviving family member chosen to serve on the jury.  There are other families of victims represented, ranging from the brother of a firefighter killed in the collapse to the wife of a Bangladeshi janitor working in the towers at the time of the attack.  And then, there is Mo, the architect whose design is chosen in chapter one.  The only problem is that Mo is Mohammad Khan, a Muslim-American who happens to also be a wildly talented architect with a rich and meaningful design.  The backlash, chaos, and upheaval that follows is where the book takes you, and it is a difficult but honest portrayal.  Waldman's book does not flinch, it does not make any of the decisions easy, and it leaves you feeling about as unresolved as you started.  But it is a worthy read, a layered and varied perspective on America in the years following 9/11.


  1. Loved this book, too - but I'm not sure there was anything about it that made me feel unresolved. If anything, it made me MORE resolved to be annoyed and angry about bigotry and ignorance.

    Nice review, though - despite your distraction. Sounds like you have a lot going on!

  2. Agreed about the annoyed and angry over bigotry part; however, I was left somewhat unresolved because I understood the difficulty such a situation would undoubtedly pose. I would have been on the "liberal" side supporting Khan, but I could very much see how it wasn't as easy as simply building his design. Nothing so emotionally charged could ever be an easy decision.