Amy Waldman began her book The Submission long before the “Ground Zero Mosque” or the recent controversy about “American Muslim” . From that perspective, its frustrating to realize that over ten years after 9/11, many American’s litmus test for legitimacy is its (real, imagined, or contrived) connection with Islam.
Set in 2003, the commission charged with selecting the final design of the site memorial settles upon a garden design submitted by a young architect whose name alone sparks vitriol. An American born of Indian parents, his prominence in his field cannot overcome the fact that he has the most Islamic of Islamic names: Mohammad. That factor alone, exacerbated by the media and reactionary factions, turns this somber effort into a vitriolic debate on who should be permitted to suggest an appropriate symbol of America’s darkest and most violent event in recent history.
Politics, religious exceptionalism, history, immigration, and jihadi myth all play out in the story as it careens through toward what will surely be a LOSE-LOSE conclusion. An unexpected event spins the story into an obvious — yet unexpected — conclusion.
The writer further appends an epilogue which takes us twenty years in the future to imagine the longer-term outcome of the decisions made in the heat of the moment. This device, initially striking me as a bit polyannaish in its optimism for the future, upon further reflection seemed a hopeful possibility.
The book overall was a timely and well-written commentary on what is and what can be.
If you are in a book club, recommend this as a future selection. The themes contained will provide for a lively discussion.
2 thoughts on “THE SUBMISSION (a book review)”
Thanks for giving us the heads-up on a good book. A very interesting theme, especially when reflected against the Vietnam Vets of American choosing an Asian American to design the memorial to that war after the US had spent decades (in Korea and Vietnam) battling Asian opponents. We have, in Al Qaeda, a medieval enemy who believes in one true way, rejects external ideas, and punishes their enemy as incorrigible. Couldn’t we say the same of Americans who protest all Islamic expression in their communities?
Eric, you get it. These themes are explored here. Enjoy it.