“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
…a coherent, timely and fascinating examination of a grieving America's relationship with itself. Waldman…excels at involving the reader in vibrant dialogues in which the level of the debate is high and the consequences significant.
The Washington Post
…nervy and absorbing…Writing in limber, detailed prose, Ms. Waldman has created a choral novel with a big historical backdrop and pointillist emotional detail, a novel that gives the reader a visceral understanding of how New York City and the country at large reacted to 9/11, and how that terrible day affected some Americans' attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants.
The New York Times
With the keen and expert eye of an excellent journalist, Waldman provides telling portraits of all the drama's major players, deftly exposing their foibles and their mutual manipulations. And she has a sense of humor: the novel is punctuated with darkly comic details…Elegantly written and tightly plotted, The Submission ultimately remains a novel about the unfolding of a dramatic situationa historian's novel…lucid, illuminating and entertaining…
The New York Times
Waldman imagines a toxic brew of bigotry in conflict with idealism in this frighteningly plausible and tightly wound account of what might happen if a Muslim architect had won a contest to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site. Jury member and 9/11 widow Claire Burwell presses for the winning garden design both before and after its creator is revealed as Mohammed "Mo" Khan, an American-born and raised architect who becomes embroiled in the growing furor between those who see the garden as a symbol of tolerance and peace, and various activists who claim patriotism as they spew anti-Islamic diatribes. Waldman keenly focuses on political and social variables, including an opportunistic governor who abets the outbreak of xenophobia; the wealthy chairman of the contest, maneuvering for social cachet; a group of zealots whose obsession with radical Islam foments violence; a beautiful Iranian-American lawyer who becomes Mo's lover until he refuses to become a mouthpiece; and a trouble-sowing tabloid reporter. Meanwhile, Mo refuses to demean himself by explaining the source of his design, seen by some as an Islamic martyr's paradise. As misguided outrage flows from all corners, Waldman addresses with a refreshing frankness thorny moral questions and ethical ironies without resorting to breathless hyperbole. True, there are more blowhards than heroes, but that just makes it all the more real. (Aug.)
After four months of wrangling, the jury commissioned to choose from the 5000 anonymous submissions for New York City's 9/11 memorial acceded to the affecting widow's steely determination. The Garden, entry #4879, would be a place, Claire opined, where families could "stumble on joy." But jury chair Paul Rubin sees his ambitious plans for elite fund-raising soirees evaporate when the architect's name is revealed. Mohammed Khan's Muslim moniker hits the news like an explosion, reopening still raw wounds. The volatile Sean Gallagher of the Memorial Support Committee is apoplectic, politicians pander to their constituents, lawyers salivate at perceived opportunities, and the Muslim American Coordinating Council sees the besieged Mo Khan as a tool to advance its own agenda. Can he be pressured into walking away from his finest artistic achievement? From this cacophony of intolerance, the single voice calling for reason emanates from Asma Anwar, a non-English speaking Bangladeshi widow whose husband also perished in the burning towers. VERDICT Waldman fluidly blends her reporter's skill (New York Times) at rapid-fire storytelling with a novelist's gift for nuanced characterization. She dares readers to confront their own complicated prejudices steeped in faith, culture, and class. This is an insightful, courageous, heartbreaking work that should be read, discussed, then read again. [See Prepub Alert, 2/7/11.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL
The selection of a Muslim architect for a 9/11 memorial stirs a media circus in Waldman's poised and commanding debut novel.
The jury assembled to select a design for a memorial in Manhattan represented every important interest group: a 9/11 widow, an art critic, a governor's representative and other major stakeholders. They considered blind submissions before arriving at a garden-themed design. The one contingency they didn't plan for was that the winner would be a Muslim, Mohammad Khan. Though he's not especially religious and his bona fides as an architect are impeccable, Khan still becomes a target for anti-Islam firebrands, and even his defenders are left wringing their hands. Waldman skillfully presents the perspectives of a handful of major characters, including Claire, a 9/11 widow; Sean, a pugnacious victims' activist who lost his brother in the attacks; and Mohammad, who vacillates between gloomy isolation and outspoken defiance at attempts to reject or tweak his design. Waldman shrewdly, subtly reveals the class and race divisions that spark arguments about who "owns" the design; it's no accident that wealthy Claire played a leading role on the jury while Asma, a working-class Bangladeshi woman who lost her husband in the attacks as well, is all but unheard. Waldman, a formerNew York Timesreporter, discusses 9/11 victims, memorial gardens and Muslim-American life, but her keenest observations are of the media. She has a canny understanding of how aNew York Postfront page can stoke right-wing rage, or how aNew York Timesarticle can muddy the waters. There's a slight cartoonishness to her characterizations of cub reporters and radio hosts, but overall this is a remarkably assured portrait of how a populace grows maddened and confused when ideology trumps empathy.
A stellar debut. Waldman's book reflects a much-needed understanding of American paranoia in the post-9/11 world.