Amy Waldman: The Submission

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Ised in Virginia the son of immigrants from India The book contains a cast of characters including family members of 911 victims including a firefighter that died the widow Claire Burwell that is on the jury and fights for the selection of The Garden an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh who has lost her husband in the attack assorted politician artists activists and one particularly vile journalistThe author tries to portray the anguish of the survivors along with the ever increasing paranoia and hatred of all things Muslim Unfortunately she falls short in these goalsThe problem is that all of her characters are flat one dimensional and nderdeveloped I found myself not caring for any of the characters and could not get inside of their skin to develop any empathy The only character I found having a strong emotional reaction to was the journalist that worked for one of the NYC tabloids she was the only one in which I could sense desperation and the corruption of her morals as she did whatever she could to make a name for herself Other than that I was frustrated at not being able to be drawn into Claire Burwell s grief or Mo Khan s anger or frustrationThis is a hard book to be drawn into and a hard book to finish The premise is so intriguing What would happen if a nation wide contest to design the 911 Memorial was held and the blind judging panel picked a Muslim winnerSPOILERS AHOY AHOYAmy Waldman s story A Baby In His Stocking unravels realistically The media churns out drivel and instigates controversy The panel collapse into themselves with over thinking andber 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 liberals worry It s a very complicated affairSo you d think the book would be interesting to me right I wonder if I would have thought differently had I skipped the author s biography she s a well seasoned reporter but for me the writing was as flat as a newscast The characters were mostly stereotypes We maintained a comfortable surface level with them her brow was furrowed like rain on glass he stewed in his kitchen in a red robe That sort of thing And I just wanted to get into the brains of some of the key characters and talk about the complex feelings they experienced instead of what shoes they chose to wearI should disclose here that I was in the minority of our book group Most of s liked it Praised it Got behind the characters and seriously connected to one side or other of the causesI did not I felt like the POV should have focused on three characters Claire the winner and the edit Bangladeshi immigrant That way the repercussions of the events would have hit home harder I feel like whoever gave the author the advice writing is reporting with adjectives because that s very much how I felt it was writtenshould have expounded a little further Amy Waldman has talent for writing Don t let what I wrote here make you think otherwise I m just going to give her a few books before I try her again 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 911 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 911 widow the chairman of the memorial committee the Muslim architect an illegal immigrant who is also a 911 widow and the brother of a firefighter killed in the tower collapseMost of the families of the 911 victims do not want a Muslim designing their memorial Broadcasters and columnists estion whether the architect is a terrorist sympathizer The truth is that the architect wanted to create a memorial that would help heal the victims but few would bother to listen to himI think I reacted so strongly to the book because of its portrayal of how divided America has become especially in the polarizing rhetoric of the politicians and the media The book is filled with characters who are trying to do good or what they think is right but from the reader s omniscient perspective the actions and motives are estionable The story is haunting not just because of what happened on 911 but because of everything that has happened since Although I was once a New Yorker and had family members on the scene of 911 in NY and DC all thankfully safe I am not a 911 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 911 Memorial competition successfully explicates a kaleidiscope of viewpoints try saying that fast three times the pper crust WASP widow of a humanistic Cantor Fitzgerald like financial trader the lowlife brother of a dead firefighter who straightens p and becomes a Muslim baiting Archie Bunker like spokesman the bloviating governor the inscrutable assimilated architect Mohammed Mo Khan in his heart about as Muslim as I am and my favorite character the wounded but also wounding tabloid reporter a fading blonde whose interview estions are like waterboarding for her even fragile subjects I picked p the book because I heard it was an accurate. Rial 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 escala.

I felt this book on a visceral level It sucked me in lit a rage fire in my belly drove me p the wall and broke my heart A panoramic depiction of a series of fictional post 911 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 Transformed Into the Frenchmans Mistress (The Hudsons of Beverly Hills, universe as boring I ripped through this motherf er like it was HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Recommend recommend recommend 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 911 America I found the novel to beite reminiscent of what has been my favoritebest post 911 novel to date Colum McCann s Let the Great World Spin Both novels operate A Perfect Evil (Maggie ODell, under a similar structure a large and swirling cast of characters creating a multi perspective patchworkilt of a story Tonally they are The Wedding in White (The Men of Medicine Ridge, uite different McCann s novel taking place in 1970s NYC was lyrical and poignant tale of grief and loss that slyly evoked 911 whereas Waldman s work is a bold provocative andite raw take of the lingerin Blurbiosity overkillNow if I had picked this one The Executives Vengeful Seduction (Australian Millionaires, 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 reuirement rather than praise I d have said Accomplished why yes for here it is in my hands Oh that doesn t just mean it s finished I did a veryick and statistically insignificant survey of the books lying within easy reach Alice Munro back cover only None inside Christopher Clark back cover and one page inside Thomas Mann can dispense with such vulgarity entirely I suspect there is a direct correlation between how well established and respected a writer already is and how much blurbiness needs to get rolled out Two pages new writer we re a little concerned that no one has heard of her Three or four pages we re deeply insecure about this one Five pages indicates a grave case of the jitters and six is well positively needy The euivalent of the security blanket and a reassuring suck of the thumbBut this one is right off the scale We ve gone way way past tense and troubled Before you even get to To my parents aaaw there are no fewer than eleven pages of Praise for The Submission Let me say that again Eleven pages Plus otes on the inside cover plus three on the back cover Eleven pages That isn t persuasion that is harassment That is intimidation That is bludgeoning the audacious blogger into submission You wouldn t dare would you disagree with ALL the prestigious British broadsheets with Salon Vogue and Marie Claire with Kirkus Review Booklist and Publisher s Weekly With The Washington Post and deep intake of breath Michiko Kakatuni in The New York Times You a mere amateur could not possibly be so presumptuous as to claim to know better than these august professionals Well yes I could Is anyone surprisedNaturally I can only prove a point by finding fault so imagine my initial disappointment when I had to admit that there was really ite a lot right with this novel The writing is sharp and fresh the basic premise is not entirely without interest and Ms Waldman a journalist herself is nafraid indeed reckless in her eagerness to do the dirty on one of her gild who manipulates and manoeuvres distorts and deceives and betrays with little concern for the collateral damage But I was soon most gratified to find that the story began to drag When you get to chapter 8 and 9 and there are yet new characters turning p then you begin to wonder The Kings Sister uite where this is going to go The trouble is this is a novel of ideas and ambitious too So every single nuance of opinion on both sides of the dividing line has to be represented And I m afraid that is where the people remained in the debating club representing a Point of View They never got legs and ran Which of course begs aestion had Michiko Kakatuni been knocked senseless on the day she compared The Submission favourably to The Bonfire of the Vanities No no no Although the publishers included every review they could find it goes without saying that they selected their passages very carefully Let me insert what they omitted she lacks Richard Price s pitch perfect ear for dialogue and instinctive sense of pacing or the evolution of Claire s thinking about the memorial may not make that much sense to the reader this and the cartoony portrait of Alyssa are the novel s two big flaws Funny that Eleven pages but no room for those remarks This novel came in for me during the weekend of 911 Being the 10th anniversary of the attack I looked forward to reading it over the weekend I was very disappointedIt 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 an American born and ra. Ten years after 911 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 MemorialClaire Harwell hasn't settled into grief; events haven't let her Cool elouent 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 memo.

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Description of the world of architects and in particular design competitions areas I have covered as a journalist Waldman spot on captures this mileau Her evocative description of the fantasy memorial the book is indeed pure fiction and the real memorial has since been built provides an excellent example of writing about landscape designWaldman skillfully handles her ensemble cast in a way that recalls The Wire or Hill Street Blues or perhaps an Altman film like The Player or Nashville Her writing is is slick and cinematic fast paced and pulpy but not trashy if that s possible in pacing and description and pithy dialogue She s got a wonderful eye for small telling detail I would not be surprised to see The Submission optioned for big screen or HBO ADDENDUM I visited the 911 Memorial on August 12 2012 I guess I was not reading the reviews close enough but was disappointed to learn this is a private ticketed space Not only do you have to cough The Cattlemans Ready-Made Family up 15 but wait in an endless line in the broiling sun and then irony of ironies go through airport security to ensure you are not a terrorist out to implode a huge granite memorial To take nothing away from the heroism displayed on 911 I am not comfortable with the canonization of New York s Finest and the resulting sanctioned police stateThat said it was worth it The monumental memorial is extremely moving I particularly enjoyed the ambiguity of the statement the peaceful feeling elicited by the massive downward fountain draining into the infinity of the earth It works for families it works for New York and memorialization and it also works for mild 911 skeptics like myself who see the efforts of the past 11 years as vast resources and perhaps the last of our personal freedoms going down the drain Or perhaps it is the remnants of our economy being drained by triumphant Wall Street still ascendant all around On the other hand the Freedom Tower is just another banal glassy high rise and the financial district with the Occupy ers vanuished from Zuccotti Park to a thin sidewalk outside Trinity Church as soul less as ever A good friend lost his brother in 911 He worked for a financial company high in the WTC I never met him and was pleased to be able to look himp and visit his inscribed name Again this is a memorial that works on numerous levels I finished reading this book The Submission a couple of days ago but wanted to take some time to think about it If you assign ratings to books based on the emotions it elicits then this book should definitely be assigned 5 stars The story takes place in Manhattan a couple of years after the terrorist attacks on 9112001 A panel is charged with choosing a memorial from the plans which had been submittedThis process was a blind process no names or backgrounds were given to the jury beforehand The memorial which was chosen was that of a beautiful garden All hell breaks loose when it is discovered that the architect who designed the memorial garden Set in New York City 2 years on from the twin towers massacre A competition is held to design a memorial for the victims It is won by an American Moslem One hell of a story line which runs and runs It explores the issues from all sides These include the victims families the moslem community politicians and the media It is superbly written and so horribly relevantThe book is a master class in how information can be distorted for political and other ends Our so called free pressmedia is a very good example of this bile in its mouth and blood on its hands Many dilemmas are shared here All the characters are well and realistically drawn I fully recommend it So you ve been warned expect a post 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 911 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 contest winner Mo is as American as can be He s an architect born and raised in Virginia His immigrant parents proudly gave him the name of a beloved prophet Never would they have imagined that a few decades later that name would become like poison to many Americans Mo is Mohammad Khan A Muslim name Suddenly his design The Garden becomes suspect and the selection committee backpedals on its decision This story felt so real that it sometimes made my heart ache for my country my world my species How easily we let ourselves be distracted led away from the harmony we say we want When the media and special interest groups push our buttons they can make True Colours (Somerset, us forget why we ve come together and what we hoped to accomplish The voices of reason and reconciliation are often the most gentle and the hardest to hear amid the din of controversy It s challenging to give a plausible ending to a novel with real life parallels This book posesestions than it answers which is as it should be Given the complexity of the issues I think Waldman found a strong and believable finish Our hope for the younger generations is powerful Those who are too young to remember September 11 2001 and its aftermath may be our best chance for a balanced perspective and ltimately for healin. Ting tensions about the place of Islam in AmericaA 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 tale.

Amy Waldman is the author of two novels A Door in the Earth which will be published August 27 2019 and The Submission which was a national bestseller a PENHemingway Award finalist and the #1 Book of the Year for Entertainment Weekly and Esuire She has received fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin Ledig House for International Writers the MacDowell Colony and the Radcliffe I