Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.

The Submission

The Submission by Amy Waldman © 2011 ISBN: 99780374271565

Everyone alive today knows about the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Thousands of innocent people died that day, some of them Muslim.  As the nation mourned, all Muslims were painted with a broad brush of suspicion and blame. I’m not certain that the nation as a whole has as of yet completely gotten through all of the stages of grief, despite it being almost twenty years.

I recall some of the discussion over what to do as a memorial for those innocents and rescue workers alike who were lost in the tragedy. Having not been in the thick of things I don’t know all, but a couple did stand out above the rest. One of which, innocently intended as an interfaith bridge to cover the gap between mainstream Muslims and the rest of the country about a decade after the attack was an interfaith center which included a mosque.  Though it was located blocks away from Ground Zero, detractors and Islamophobes immediately dubbed it the “Ground Zero mosque.”  Pushing the narrative that Muslims were reveling in the tragedy and wanted to build a Mosque on the remains of dead Americans.

I mention this because our next novel, The Submission, looks at what would have happened if, in selecting designs for a Ground Zero-like memorial, the winner turned out to be designed by a Muslim-American architect. The author, former New York Times reporter Amy Waldman, looks in depth at what political, social, and media responses might ensue. We get a response very near to what actually happened with that community center/mosque almost a year after this book was published. We see the architect gaining ridicule and being harassed rather than celebrated, his family and friends coming under fire, people who originally championed the choice questioning their decision based solely on the religion of the designer, protesters and politicians coming out of the woodwork to trash the idea… in short, a political, social, and media firestorm is unleashed.

Waldman truly creates a masterpiece of fiction that shows the unfortunate social and political reality that we find ourselves in. A world in which even when we begin to move on something can come along and reopen wounds that had only begun to heal, one in which the complicated landscape that is a country with no single homogenous ethnic, religious, or regional background can find itself in and the source of a lot of pain because of misunderstandings of innocent intentions, especially when we are continuously bombarded by a ravenous media and hatemongers.

I mention this because our next novel, The Submission, looks at what would have happened if, in selecting designs for a Ground Zero-like memorial, the winner turned out to be designed by a Muslim-American architect. The author, former New York Times reporter Amy Waldman, looks in depth at what political, social, and media responses might ensue. We get a response very near to what actually happened with that community center/mosque almost a year after this book was published. We see the architect gaining ridicule and being harassed rather than celebrated, his family and friends coming under fire, people who originally championed the choice questioning their decision based solely on the religion of the designer, protesters and politicians coming out of the woodwork to trash the idea… in short, a political, social, and media firestorm is unleashed.

Waldman truly creates a masterpiece of fiction that shows the unfortunate social and political reality that we find ourselves in. A world in which even when we begin to move on something can come along and reopen wounds that had only begun to heal, one in which the complicated landscape that is a country with no single homogenous ethnic, religious, or regional background can find itself in and the source of a lot of pain because of misunderstandings of innocent intentions, especially when we are continuously bombarded by a ravenous media and hatemongers.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.