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The Submission: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 296 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: Amy Waldman has performed a rare and dangerous feat in writing an airtight, multi-viewed, highly readable post-9/11 novel. When a Muslim architect wins a blind contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial, a city of eleven million people takes notice. Waldman, a former bureau chief for the New York Times, explores a diversity of viewpoints around this fictional event, bringing in politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists, and normal people whose lives--whether by happenstance, choice, or even due to their country of origin--get caught up in the controversy. Incredibly, she manages to keep all the balls in the air without ever fumbling. The story is moving and keeps the pages turning, but there are also bigger themes at work: of individuals versus groups; about the purpose of art, commerce, government, and journalism in society; of how people respond to grief and terror. The result is honest, compelling, and breathtaking.--Chris Schluep

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A masterful debut . . . Waldman unspools her story with the truth-bound grit of a seasoned journalist and the elegance of a born novelist.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Gripping, deeply intelligent . . . panoramic in scope but thrillingly light on its feet . . . [A] dazzling tapestry of a grieving city.” ―Kimberly Cutter, Marie Claire

“The Submission reads as if the author had embraced Tom Wolfe's famous call for a new social realism...and in doing so has come up with a story that has more verisimilitude, more political resonance, and way more heart than Mr. Wolfe's own 1987 bestseller, The Bonfire of the Vanities.” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review

“A gorgeously written novel of ideas...The Submission is sure to generate a lot of discussion in book clubs across the land.” ―NPR's Fresh Air

“Addictively readable...Not unlike The Wire's David Simon...Waldman has an eye for the less sound bite-worthy but crucial ways in which ideology and influence make their imprint on the world.” ―Vogue


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250007577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250007575
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A nation's tragedy brings out the best and the worst in its citizens. Amy Waldman places her story at the center of America's tragedy, two years after the devastation. A contest for a 9/11 memorial where the World Trade Center once stood brings to a boil all the simmering hurt and mistrust and fear about the future. What is it that causes this firestorm of media distortion and political posturing? What revelation leads to threats and accusations and even violence? Just a name. The name of the contest winner.

"Mo" is as American as can be. He's an architect, born and raised in Virginia. His immigrant parents proudly gave him the name of a beloved prophet. Never would they have imagined that a few decades later that name would become like poison to many Americans. "Mo" is Mohammad Khan. A Muslim name. Suddenly his design, "The Garden," becomes suspect, and the selection committee backpedals on its decision.

This story felt so real that it sometimes made my heart ache for my country, my world, my species. How easily we let ourselves be distracted, led away from the harmony we say we want. When the media and special interest groups push our buttons, they can make us forget why we've come together and what we hoped to accomplish. The voices of reason and reconciliation are often the most gentle and the hardest to hear amid the din of controversy.

It's challenging to give a plausible ending to a novel with real-life parallels. This book poses more questions than it answers, which is as it should be. Given the complexity of the issues, I think Waldman found a strong and believable finish. Our hope for the younger generations is powerful. Those who are too young to remember September 11, 2001 and its aftermath may be our best chance for a balanced perspective and, ultimately, for healing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Amy Waldman's first novel offices a scenario reminiscent of last year's Park51 debate, but with a twist that makes the issues involved even more explosive. Two years after the September 11th attacks, the New York City committee appointed to select the World Trade Center memorial design has made its selection from among hundreds of anonymous submissions. When the envelope containing the designer's name is opened, he turns out to be a Muslim named Mohammad Khan. A media leak soon leads to a massive debate about Islam, grief, and art, with Khan and his design's greatest admirer, the 9/11 widow Claire Burwell, at its center.

The evolving sequence of events Waldman, a former reporter for The New York Times, describes is plausible enough, and full of details that have the ring of truth. But the issues raised and the views expressed are so familiar from the Park51 brouhaha and other aspects of the national discourse about Islam that it's difficult to escape the feeling one has read all this before. There are no real surprises in the way things play out, and the ignorant difficulty many characters have in thinking clearly about Islam, while true to life, makes for frustrating reading. Ultimately the novel fails to offer a new or surprising perspective on Islam, the September 11th attacks, or any other relevant topic, and feels more like a journalistic variation on real events than a story with guiding themes of its own.

Nor does it illuminate the personalities involved in its fictional debate enough to generate greater understanding of those involved in actual ones. Waldman demonstrates an awareness that politicans, journalists, activists, and commentators manipulate events like this not out of any great interest in outcomes, but to further their own ends.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A cerebral and often tedious exploration of clashing religious, philosophical and aesthetic principles, centering on the choice of a 9/11 memorial from proposals submitted anonymously. The winning entry, picked by a jury of which Claire Burwell, a 9/11 widow, serves as the moral center, ignites controversy when it turns out to be the product of a Muslim-American architect. Much intellectualizing is expended on the question of whether his memorial is a stealthy attempt to enshrine an Muslim victory on the site of a conquered people with his Islamic-inspired design which some see as "a garden of [Muslim] martyrs." He, Mohammad Khan, coldly and proudly refuses to explain himself or refute the accusations levied against him. A purist, he demands that his work stand on its own and his vision remain uncompromised by the client's wishes.

The central problem with the novel is its lack of believable emotion. I never got a full sense of Claire Burwell's husband as a vivid, particular character; thus I could not share her grief or that of her children. The real moral center of the novel is Asma Anwar, a Bangladeshi illegal immigrant whose husband, Inam, also died in the towers on 9/11. Her tragedy as it plays out is affecting but not deeply moving because even she is treated at a remove in this novel that is much more preoccupied with ideas than characters. Waldman often veers into stereotypes: the unscrupulous NY Post reporter, the muddle-minded, failure-haunted brother of a firefighter who died on 9/11,the anti-Islam-agitator housewife, and the Rush Limbaugh-like talk show shock jock. Even Claire and the late Cal Burwell come across as stereotypes: impeccably tasteful, emotionally repressed, hyperprivileged WASPs.

Overall, admirable for its literary elegance, but ultimately cold, overly intellectual and unsatisfying.
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