Suburban Mosaic

The Submission

By Amy Waldman

Adult Title

Discussion Questions
The Submission

  1. What do you think the purpose and message of a national memorial should be? Would you have voted for the Void or the Garden?
  2. Mo is under considerable pressure to give the “right” reasons when asked why he entered the competition, but he defies simplistic answers. Do you think he was obligated to explain himself and his design?
  3. Chapter 16 begins with a depiction of Mo’s hunger and thirst during Ramadan.  How does it affect him, a secular skeptic, to join Muslims worldwide in observing the fast?
  4. How did your reactions shift as Sean’s story unfolded, especially as he struggled with conflicting feelings after pulling Zahira’s scarf? Is bigotry excusable if it’s coming from someone whose loved one was the victim of a horrific crime?
  5. Many of the characters desperately want someone to blame for their loss. The final line of chapter 22, referring to Alyssa, reads, “She is responsible.” Ultimately, who is responsible for the tragedies depicted in the novel?
  6. What would you have done in Paul Rubin’s situation? Was it courageous or insensitive of him to permit Mo’s submission to move forward?
  7. An uproar erupted in 2010 when Park51, a community center housing a mosque, was proposed for construction two blocks from Ground Zero. What does this conflict — and the one described in The Submission — suggest about how 9/11 might have transformed American society? (Note: Amy Waldman began writing The Submission several years before Park51 was announced.)
  8. What makes fiction a powerful way to explore events that shaped our lives? What can a novel achieve that journalism and testimonials can’t?