The Submission by Amy Waldman
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.