The irony of reading this book in the midst of the Orlando attack is not lost on me. The timing couldn’t have been better.
The Submission is set two years after 9/11 and a jury has been gathered to select the perfect memorial structure for the hallowed ground. Artists and architects are invited to submit their designs anonymously so the jury can objectively select the winning memorial based on talent and creativity alone. On the jury are people closely tied to the city, but also Claire, a widow who lost her husband when the Twin Towers fell.
With gusto, a lovely garden design is selected. The jury is happy. They feel that the garden best represents the solemnity and respect required for that sacred space. However, upon revealing the name of the architect, the jury – and the nation – are faced with an unforeseen conflict: the designer is American Muslim Mohammad Khan.
Mo is an American first and a non-practicing Muslim second. He’s a talented architect who considered his contribution to be a meaningful one. Mo doesn’t understand the backlash and the public doesn’t understand why he’d even participate in the contest. He’s accused of creating the garden to be an Islamic paradise, accused of hating America, accused of having ulterior motives.
What makes The Submission an accurate reflection of our time is the author’s depiction of our conflicting emotions and how we struggle to communicate with one another our fears, our preconceived ideas, and our inability to see beyond the label. The discord represented in the book reflects the same arguments people had in 2010 when there was talk of building a Muslim community center near Ground Zero. They reflect the same conversations people are having now about how to handle domestic terrorists who act as representatives of ISIS and how to build unity with our American Muslim friends who are victims just like everyone else.
I finished The Submission late last night so I’m still processing the words, but if you’re looking for a book to capture today’s national conversation – the good and the ugly – pick up this one.
Buy The Submission here.