Reading Amy Waldman’s novel The Submission is like watching a politically-charged story unfold on a 24-hour cable news station. Two years after the 9/11 attacks, a panel jury convenes to select a memorial design for the victims, only to discover the anonymous winner is an American Muslim. Mohammad Khan (“Mo” to family and friends) was born in Virginia, attended Ivy League schools and doesn't practice his religion, but no matter, he is branded a terrorist sympathizer by the tabloid press and opportunistic politicians.
The other major character in this book is Claire Burwell, the lone juror who lost a family member in the attacks. She initially supported the design, but the pressure from other outraged family members causes her to reconsider.
The nation is divided by the controversy, and Mo becomes a pawn caught up in a fight between factions who are more interested in advancing their own agendas. Should he drop out of the competition to restore peace and give the country more time to heal, or should he stand up for his principles and demand that he be treated like any other American?
The Submission is a plot-driven book with a large cast of characters which enables the author to explore multiple points of view. Amy Waldman writes for The New York Times and The Atlantic, and her journalist style suits this novel well. At times a biting parody full of sarcastic wit, at other times a meditative questioning of ethics and personal values. I really enjoyed this thoughtful exploration of the raucous and wild nature of political discourse.