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The Submission

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  9,633 ratings  ·  1,596 reviews
Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath

A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name—and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about t
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published August 16th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2011)
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The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerState of Wonder by Ann PatchettGillespie and I by Jane  HarrisThe Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
Orange Prize For Fiction Longlist 2012
7th out of 20 books — 146 voters
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern11/22/63 by Stephen KingState of Wonder by Ann PatchettThe Art of Fielding by Chad HarbachThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Kirkus Best Books of 2011
17th out of 88 books — 174 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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 co ...more
N W James
The premise is so intriguing: What would happen if a nation-wide contest to design the 9/11 Memorial was held and the blind judging panel picked a Muslim winner?


Amy Waldman's story unravels realistically. The media churns out drivel and instigates more controversy. The panel collapse into themselves with over-thinking and uber-PC dialogue. The winner broods and employs lawyers to get a fair shake at the prestige of honoring those that were killed. The racists rally. The liberal
This novel came in for me during the weekend of 9/11. Being the 10th anniversary of the attack, I looked forward to reading it over the weekend. I was very disappointed.

It begins two years after the September 11th attacks, and a jury has been assembled to select a WTC memorial from thousands of submissions that are anonymous. After much discussion, “The Garden” is selected. When the sealed envelope is opened the architect is revealed, a Muslim named Mohammad Khan. “Mo” as his friends call him is
Blurbiosity overkill

Now if I had picked this one up in a bookstore it would never have carried me to the checkout. For why? For because when you look into the first few pages of a book these days, fair enough, you do expect to see not the publication details, dedication, epigraph and opening page, but first to be forced to hack your way through the choking jungle of gush, you know the style: exciting, extraordinary, exhilarating, exceptional. Thought-provoking (an absolute minimum requirement ra
Although I was once a New Yorker and had family members on the scene of 9/11 in NY and DC (all thankfully safe), I am not a 9/11 obsessive or fanatic (Both My Former Hometowns Were Terrorized and I All I Got Was Two Wars, the Patriot Act and This Lousy T-Shirt.) Like a low-key take on "Bonfire of the Vanities," heavy on compassion and easy on the sarcasm, Waldman's wonderful what-if tale (what if a Muslim won the 9/11 Memorial competition?) successfully explicates a kaleidiscope of viewpoints (t ...more
A Muslim American named Mohammad "Mo" Khan wins a blind design contest for NYC's WTC memorial? That premise alone tells Amy Waldman's debut novel is a work of fiction, but the events that swirl around the submission proves to be an all too true examination of post-9/11 America.

I found the novel to be quite reminiscent of what has been my favorite/best post-9/11 novel to-date, Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. Both novels operate under a similar structure, a large and swirling cast of cha
Teresa Lukey
The Submission made my ten best books for 2011. It is an extremely thought provoking read that I would recommend to anyone, especially those who may be scared or ignorant of the Muslim religion.

This story takes place in 2003 NYC. They city has assembled a group of judges, who accept, and wade through, submissions for a memorial at the site of the twin towers. The group decides they do not want to know who the designer is until they have made a final decision as to which design they want to use.
I felt this book on a visceral level. It sucked me in, lit a rage fire in my belly, drove me up the wall, and broke my heart. A panoramic depiction of a series of fictional post-9/11 events, this is an important book for Americans to read. And don't let the adjective "important" trick you into thinking this is anywhere in the same universe as boring. I ripped through this motherf---er like it was HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. Recommend, recommend, recommend.
Diane Librarian
This is one of the best novels I've read in years. The book is so well-plotted and thoughtful that at times I forgot it was fiction. It's set in 2003, when a committee is selecting a design for a 9/11 memorial in New York City. The competition was anonymous, and a firestorm erupts when it's learned that the winning designer was a Muslim American.

The book follows several different people: a newspaper reporter, a wealthy 9/11 widow, the chairman of the memorial committee, the Muslim architect, an
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2011-reads
I prefer novels and stories that deal with 9/11 obliquely, like Saturday by McEwan, Deborah Eisenberg's "Twilight of the Superheroes," maybe Netherland by O'Neill, and especially James Hynes's Next. So for me this was not the "9/11 novel we have been waiting for," and which Maureen Corrigan gushed about as being "poetic and polemical."

I thought Waldman's best writing was in the longer descriptive passages. There is a scene near the end in which the reader is taken back to the architect's busines
Jean Nicolazzo
I started this book on the anniversary of 9/11, based on a rave review on NPR by Maureen Corrigan. To quote: "The Submission distinguishes itself by its panoramic scope and, also, by the ease with which it pulls off the literary magic trick of being at once poetic and polemical." Uh, no. Forget the poetic, and the polemic is just confused. This book read like it had a laundry list of issues it had to cover, including class, anti-Muslim fervor in the wake of the attacks, immigration and ethnic id ...more
This is an excellent lesson in humility. It is impossible to sit and read It smugly,at least for me. As abhorrent as many of the views and reactions of the characters were, I realized that it was difficult not to find myself rationalizing their pettiness. Reading THE SUBMISSION was uncomfortable, with characters all too familiar and human. This is a superb read.
When an anonymous architect's design of a 9/ 11 memorial is announced by the selecting jury and the winner is identified as a Muslim American, his selection stirs up bitter controversy across a traumatized, grieving nation. Defending Mohammad Khan's design, a memorial garden, is Claire Burwell, a widow whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center and who represents the families on the jury. However, tensions run high, and while some see the garden with its walls containing the names of the ...more
I thought this book was thoughtful and well-written, but ultimately too schematic and idea-bound, more like a framework for debate than a novel. And many of the characters failed to rise above caricature.

Yes, it's a theme worth exploring, and it's a very courageous choice to make both the hero and the heroine somewhat dislikeable prigs - it makes the book's conundrums that much more challenging. But for a book about the most traumatic day in my city's history, it happens all in your head, nowher
This novel felt so true to life that I often wondered if it had already happened. Waldman sets up a hypothesis and portrays the resulting scenarios in a frighteningly accurate way. Any possible thought or action that could be expected in such a situation is touched upon. Hearing from the different people involved allows us to gain more sympathy for the varying perspectives. At first when I realized the last chapter was set 20 years in the future, I was annoyed; it was an abrupt plot device. But ...more
Gerri Leen
I really wanted to like this book. It's clearly being deemed an "important" book by critics. I got two-thirds of the way through it and then realized I didn't know any of the characters, I didn't like any of the characters, and most crucially, I didn't feel anything for the characters. If it's such a damned important book, shouldn't I feel something? I will admit to some 9/11 fatigue, but this premise of a Muslim winning the anonymous 9/11 memorial contest should have been compelling. And the ov ...more
Really 4.5 stars. I read this during the week of the tenth anniversary of 9-11, and it was a fitting book to get me to think about what effect the event really had on our country.

This novel takes place two years after the 9-11 attacks. A jury has been set up to judge entries submitted for a 9-11 memorial. All entries are anonymous, and the jury is shocked when they discover that the entry they pick was created by an American named Mohammed Khan. The story is about the fallout.

The novel includes
Jan 07, 2013 Caroline rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Caroline by: Jeanette

Not only a wonderful book, but a book lauded with some outstanding reviews, five of which I list here..... I won’t be doing a review as such. It has all been said, and so much better than I can say it.

Jeanette (Netterooski)

Teresa Lukey

Michael Leccese

Ed Z

Lisa Eckstein

(I am going to do some bare bone
Jennifer Ridgway
I am going to try to do this book justice, although my ability to write a compelling book review is sadly lacking (especially considering my current profession).

It is very rare for me to have such visceral reactions while reading books. This book led to moments of deep anger, complete sadness, and some despair (occasionally so deep that I felt the emotions in the pit of my stomach). Waldman's writing is wonderful, and the storyline is compelling (and very realistic).

At first the title seems st
What if the winner of the anonymous contest to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site turned out to be Muslim? "The Submission" imagines the answer to that question, and it's not pretty. Basically, it's the post 9/11 version of "The Bonfire of the Vanities", but without the snark.

Waldman does a competent job of orchestrating her nightmare scenario, which is chillingly plausible. But this story trades exclusively in stereotypes - unscrupulous reporters, the governor with higher politica

2.5 Stars

I think I may have made a tactical blunder in reading Mark Helprin's dazzling, strange and surreal homage to New York City Winter's Tale immediately before tackling The Submission. I thought that aligning those two books back-to-back would provide each of them an interesting counterpoint. Alas, Amy Waldman's post-9/11 tale is a moribund, contrived hand-wringing glop-fest that never really lives up to its critical acclaim.

The idea sounded great: a jury comprised primarily of cognoscenti
Rebecca Foster
Waldman’s debut is a confident, hard-hitting contribution to the fund of post-9/11 New York stories. The Submission imagines what would have happened had New Yorkers chosen a 9/11 memorial design as soon as 2003 and – crucially – had the anonymous selection turned out to be by a Muslim architect named Mohammad Khan.

Khan’s plan is considered placid and innocuous, at least prior to the revelation of his identity. His memorial garden is rich in possible meanings and influences, with intersecting ca
May 30, 2012 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Paul by: EW
While visiting New York City recently, I visited the 9/11 Memorial. I was moved by its simplicity and symbolism. I thought that whoever had created it had done a magnificent job of memorializing those who had died and stirring the passions of those of us who remember the day so well. But not once did I think of the process of selecting a design. Author Amy Waldman, however, did – and created a terrific story about what might have taken place during the decision-making process.

The novel, set in 2
I can’t count the times that I have been disappointed by a book with a terrific premise and a lousy execution. Many writers have excellent imaginations but lack the skills to do justice to their great ideas. Luckily, that is not the case for Amy Waldman in The Submission. From the first time I heard about the book, I wanted to find out how the author would deal with the complex concept behind the plot. I have to admit I was skeptical that Waldman, or any writer for that matter, would be able to ...more
The saddest thing about this book is that it seems to be accepted as a serious contribution to the dialogue in this country about post-9/11 xenophobia and the attendant deterioration of civil public discourse...instead,it's a Ripped-From-The-Headlines Pot-Boiler complete with stock "Liberal" and "Conservative"characters with all the depth of FOX/MSNBC caricatures instead of anyone who might not conform to the banality of the CableNews Playbook...very,very disappointing,especially in light of the ...more
The Submission is a serious and thought provoking novel about issues of racism, tolerance, and awareness; about immigration, belief systems, and grief's healing processes. It's two years after the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers. A jury of artists and professionals, including one family member of a person who died in that attack, have convened to choose the winning architectural entry for the memorial that will be built at ground zero. After some conflicts and thorough discussion, they decide on ...more
Normally when an author intentionally pushes all my "issue" buttons, I resent feeling manipulated, but Waldman does it so well and so effortlessly that I fell in love with this book. It's most definitely a 9-11 story, filled with that gut punch and sorrow and even fear, but it's even more an American story, dealing with what it means to be free. When a Muslim man wins a blind competition to design the 9-11 Memorial, everyone's beliefs and assumptions are questioned. There are no easy bad or good ...more
This is the type of book that when you are finished, you want to find someone to discuss it with. It will be great for book clubs.

An event similar to 9/11 occurs in NY. Two years later, a jury composed of artists, fund raisers, politicians and a widow meet to choose a design for a national memorial. The submission selected features a garden with canals. The envelope is opened and lo and behold the winner is Mohammad Khan, a Yale-educated, American-born architect of Muslim heritage, but not prac
Friederike Knabe
What if...? stories can offer creative opportunities and also pitfalls for an author intent on reimagining aspects of real-life events in fictional form. Amy Waldman has taken up the challenge with her debut novel "The Submission". The author envisions that - a few years after the tragic events - in an anonymous competition for the Memorial design for the 9/11 victims, the jury chooses a design that had been submitted by a Muslim American architect, Mohammad Khan. As soon as the news of the jury ...more
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
This was fabulous. I listened to it on a long trip to and from northern Vermont, and was immerse in a particular moment in New York City - and America - when our country was still trying to heal from the attacks of 9/11. Here, "the submission" refers to a design entered in a competition to erect a memorial to that event, a defining monument and contemplative space that is meant to serve the needs of the victims, the families, and all Americans. But the title may also refer to the way we humans s ...more
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The Submission-How would you feel in Mo's postion? 6 63 Nov 15, 2013 07:24AM  
9/11 novels 1 17 Oct 01, 2012 11:00AM  
readers from the ...: April 2012: The Submission 2 7 May 22, 2012 08:27PM  
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Amy Waldman was co-chief of the South Asia bureau of The New York Times. Her fiction has appeared in The Atlantic and the Boston Review and is anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010. She lives with her family in Brooklyn. The Submission is her first novel.
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“There were in life rarely, if ever, "right" decisions, never perfect ones, only the best to be made under the circumstances.” 21 likes
“[s]he was a compulsive pessimist, always looking for the soft brown spot in the fruit, pressing so hard she created it.” 20 likes
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