About the Book

The Submission

Reimagining 9/11 and its aftermath, Amy Waldman’s provocative novel, The Submission, begins with a resonant scene: a jury gathers in Manhattan to choose a memorial for the victims of a devastating Islamic terrorist attack. After tense deliberations, they select the Garden, which features trees both living and made from salvaged steel. Then the jury discovers that the anonymous architect who created the winning design is an American Muslim.

The revelation triggers both fury and ambivalence throughout New York, making the designer, the staunchly independent Mohammed “Mo” Khan, a symbol of beliefs that seem foreign to him. His most visible defender is Claire Burwell, the only member of the selection committee who lost a loved one in the attack. Cool and eloquent, Claire grows increasingly frustrated by Mo as he stubbornly refuses to answer concerns about the origins or meaning of his design.

At the helm of the memorial project is Paul Rubin, a grandson of Jewish peasants who has risen to a position of influence and wealth. Paul’s idea of America is rooted in tolerance, but he must also take into account the emotions of outraged, grieving family members who want him to quash Mo’s design. Within the crowds, two powerful voices come to dominate the debate: the widow of an undocumented worker who cleaned offices champions Mo’s design, while the brother of a fallen firefighter calls it the worst kind of disrespect.

As the emotional rhetoric escalates, The Submission becomes a mesmerizing meditation on the human experience. (From the publisher.) Visit the official Submission website

A Guide to the Main Characters through Excerpts

The Architect – Mohammed Khan

Every day brought more proof that the attackers were Muslims, seeking the martyr’s straight shot to paradise—and so Mo braced for suspicion as he returned to the theater under construction. A few days later he realized that the difference wasn’t in how he was being treated but in how he was behaving. Customarily brusque on work sites, he had become gingerly, polite, careful to give no cause for alarm or criticism. He didn’t like this new, more cautious avatar, whose efforts at accommodation hinted at some feeling of guilt, yet he couldn’t quite shake him.

The Widow – Claire Burwell

Aftermath had filled the two years since her husband’s death, the surge of grief yielding to the slow leak of mourning, the tedium of recovery, bathetic new routines that felt old from the get-go. Forms and more forms. Bulletins from the medical examiner: another fragment of her husband had been found.

The Journalist – Alyssa Spier

She had no ideology, believed only in information, which she obtained, traded, peddled, packaged, and published, and she opposed any effort to doctor her product.

The Chairman – Paul Rubin

The longer that space stayed clear, the more it became a symbol of defeat, of surrender, of something for “them,” whoever they were, to mock. A memorial only to America’s diminished greatness, its new vulnerability to attack by a fanatic band, mediocrities in all but murder… Filling in that blank, as much as his wife’s ambitions, was why he had wanted to chair the memorial jury. Its work would mark not only his beloved city, but history, too.

The Brother – Sean Gallagher

The decade prior to the attack had been a herky-jerky improvisation, a man lurching wildly through the white space of adult life.

The Immigrant – Asma Anwar

In the haze that followed, Asma gave statements about her missing husband’s work, his schedule, his habits, his history, to Bangladeshi consular officials, investigators hired by Inam’s employer, the police, the FBI, and the American Red Cross.