Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath and wonders what would happen if a Muslim-American was blindly chosen to plan the World Trade Center Memorial.
Claire Harwell hasn't settled into grief; events haven't let her. Cool, eloquent, raising two fatherless children, Claire has emerged as the most visible of the widows who became a potent political force in the aftermath of the catastrophe. She longs for her husband, but she has found her mission: she sits on a jury charged with selecting a fitting memorial for the victims of the attack.
Of the thousands of anonymous submissions that she and her fellow jurors examine, one transfixes Claire: a garden on whose walls the names of the dead are inscribed. But when the winning envelope is opened, they find the designer is Mohammad Khan - Mo - an enigmatic Muslim-American who, it seems, feels no need to represent anyone's beliefs except his own. When the design and its creator are leaked, a media firestorm erupts, and Claire finds herself trying to balance principles against emotions amid escalating tensions about the place of Islam in America.
A remarkably bold and ambitious debut, The Submission is peopled with journalists, activists, mourners, and bureaucrats who struggle for advantage and fight for their ideals. In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman's cast of characters is matched by her startling ability to conjure individual lives from their own points of view. A striking portrait of a city - and a country - fractured by old hatreds and new struggles, The Submission is a major novel by an important new talent.
"The names," Claire said. "What about the names?"
"They're a record, not a gesture," the sculptor replied. Ariana's words brought nods from the other artists, the critic, and the two purveyors of public art arrayed along the dining table, united beneath her sway. She was the jury's most famous figure, its dominant personality, Claire's biggest problem.
Ariana had seated herself at the head of the table, as if she were presiding. For the previous four months they had deliberated at a table that had no head, being round. It was in an office suite high above the gouged earth, and there the other jurors had deferred to the widow's desire to sit with her back to the window, so that the charnel ground below was only a gray blur when Claire walked to her chair. But tonight the jury was gathered, for its last arguments, at Gracie Mansion's long table. Ariana, without consultation or, it appeared, compunction, had taken pride of place, giving notice of her intent to prevail.
Waldman has created something I really love when reading fiction - unreliable narrators. Several main characters - Claire Burwell, Mo Khan, and Sean Gallagher - dig their heels in, waver, reevaluate themselves and others, and cause rippling consequences.... [T]hrough her gifted prose and fully realized characters, [Waldman] has created a very powerful reading experience.
(Reviewed by Jennifer Dawson Oakes).
Full Review (844 words).
The search for the World Trade Center Memorial design, which is now being built where the Twin Towers once stood, began in 2003. While honoring those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, the memorial also pays tribute to the seven people killed and thousands injured in the WTC attack on February 26, 1993. Memorializing these 3,000+ people, the national monument incorporates the victims' names at the very center of its structure.
In total, 5,201 designs were received, and 62 countries were represented by the submissions. The selection committee - a jury of thirteen people - included architects (for example, Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, DC), artists, political representatives, curators, ...
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