Amy Waldman was a reporter for The New York Times for eight years. She spent three years as co-chief of the South Asia bureau after covering Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the aftermath of 9/11. She was also a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where her stories included this look at Islam in the courts.
She has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and at the American Academy in Berlin. Her fiction has appeared in Boston Review and The Atlantic, and was anthologized in The Best American Non-Required Reading 2010. She lives with her family in Brooklyn. (From the author’s website.)
Reimagining 9/11 and its aftermath, Amy Waldman’s provocative novel 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.)