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Blueprints of Intolerance   Leave a comment

The word submission has multiple meanings, and all find their way
into Amy Waldman’s The Submission. On its surface, the reference
is to the design proposal for a 9/11 Memorial; subsequent insinuat-
ions include compliance, obedience and capitulation – among others
– as associated with religion, politics, marriage, relationships, em-
ployment: in other words, life.

Waldman’s finely woven novel begins with a committee charged
with selecting a memorial design. As the jury argues the merits of
one proposal over another, the most vocal advocate for one in parti-
cular is Claire, a widow representing the families who lost loved ones
in the World Trade Center. The initial conflict, however, is not what
creates the intrigue that results in turning the pages at an exception-
ally rapid rate; it’s the discovery that the selected memorial designer
is Mohamed Khan, a Muslim American.

The ripple effect evolves into a racial tsunami with politicians, report-
ers, other families directly affected by 9/11, and extremist organiza-
tions. Waldman raises questions that have no easy answers. Just as
the characters ask themselves how to best deal with this difficult
situation, the issues confront the reader as well. Emotions, values,
and preconceptions taint major and minor players alike.

The passage of ten years has not diminished the image of the twin
towers in flames, or other indelible impressions from that day.
Waldman’s portrait of the lingering aftermath demonstrates that
cultural and personal prejudices remain. Although the novel focuses
on New York City residents, it will resonate with American citizens
no matter where they live.

The Submission
Four-and-a-Half Bookmarks
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011
299 pages

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