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The Submission

A riveting story, Amy Walden's debut novel tells the story of the (fictional) attempt to chose a memorial for the victims of the September 11th attacks. As it was advertised, "Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath." The story begins with the jury debating between the two final designs in the anonymous competition for the memorial. Claire, a juror and a widowed New Yorker, the representative representative of the families, is pushing "The Garden" design, which ultimately wins. When the jury goes to find out the architect, they learn he is Muslim. And suddenly, they are all thrown into a quandary. The choice of the title is a really clever and interesting one; Islam can be defined as "submission to the will of god" and of course, the plot of the story revolves around submissions to a competition. The dual meaning of submission in the context of this novel struck me as very poignant. The story is interwoven with multiple narrators, but it never feels too complex or confusing. The different voices and perspectives were welcome in advancing the flow of the story. The aftermath of 9/11 for American Muslims was multi-layered, and I found it really interesting when the story addressed the problems American Muslims encountered (and still do). I was hooked on the novel immediately and it was a rather quick read for me. The actual 9/11 memorial architect is Michael Arad, an Israeli-American architect. The composition of the jury that eventually picked Arad's design ("Reflecting Absence") was similar to that of the book. Another historical parallel this novel calls to mind is Maya Lin and the Vietnam Memorial controversy. Maya Lin is a Chinese American who faced accusations after her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was chosen in a blind competition. Amy Waldman was a reporter for the New York Times for eight years, and she covered 9/11 as a journalist. In her novel, Waldman goes into the conflict between one's principles and one's emotions and the tangled relationship between religion and politics. Does religion have a place in politics? Many Americans would say so, but America was founded on "separation of church and state." The Submission is not only a 9/11 novel but a novel about the character of American politics, and I highly suggest you read it (thanks to my mom for telling me to read the novel after her book club did) Rating:★★★★★

The Grapes of Wrath