What would happen if the selected architect for a 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero turned out to be a Muslim-American? How would people react to the news, particularly those families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack? There are no easy answers to the questions raised by award-winning author Amy Waldman in her debut novel The Submission, chosen as this year’s One Book/One New Paltz readers’ selection.
In Library Journal, Sally Bissell remarks that this book is an “insightful, courageous, heartbreaking work that should be read, discussed, then read again.” This is exactly what One Book/One New Paltz will attempt to do as it embarks on its seventh year of a communitywide reading program filled with events, reading groups, panels and featured authors and actors. One Book is a popular nationwide program that brings communities together through reading and promotes literacy and was first brought to New Paltz and spearheaded by professor Gerald Benjamin in 2005.
“There are many criteria that go into choosing our selection,” said Jacqueline Andrews of the 11-member One Book committee. “This book fit all of them: It’s topical; we live in New York very close to where the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place; the novel is well-written; and it’s accessible to a broad range of people. It also lends itself to lively discussion, as the author, Amy Waldman, does not show her political hand at all. There are no sacred cows; everyone is treated fairly — brutally so — whether it’s the Muslim-American that won the design award, or families of 9/11 victims. No one gets a break from Waldman.”
Waldman’s novel imagines a post-9/11 competition for the design of a memorial at Ground Zero where the winner, selected by a blind jury, turns out to be an American-born Muslim, creating complex and emotional reactions from the jury, the public, the victims’ families and the winner himself.
The communitywide events, panels, presentations and performances will kick off on Nov. 1, when SUNY-New Paltz welcomes the author as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series to speak about The Submission, which was named by The New York Times as a Notable Book for 2011, as well as being named a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/Pen First Fiction Award. The event will take place in Lecture Center 100 at 7:30 p.m., with a book-signing and reception to follow. To order tickets for this or to learn more go to www.newpaltz.edu/speakerseries.
As Andrews pointed out, “While this dovetails perfectly with our selection, the Distinguished Speaker Series is not a part of One Book/One New Paltz, though we’re thrilled to begin our communitywide reading and discussion with actually having the author here on campus.”
From Nov. 11-20, there will be several small reading groups at various locations throughout New Paltz at all hours and times of the day, so that as many people as possible can be encouraged to join in the dialogue, hear various perspectives on the book and become engaged not only with the subject matter raised in the novel, but also with literature and their friends and neighbors. There will be a journalist panel and a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder seminar as well as a Unison Arts and Learning Center-sponsored reading from the book by the Mohonk Mountain Stage actors’ group.
The book is now available at Inquiring Minds, Barner Books, the Elting Memorial Library, the Sojourner Truth Library and the New Paltz High School Library. Andrews noted that the committee had received 20 more copies of the book from the publisher and will be distributing those as well. “It’s a quick read, a powerful read; and I think it’s going to make for some stimulating discussion,” she said.
To learn more about One Book/One New Paltz, go to https://sites.google.com/site/onebookonenewpaltz. To get a full schedule of events, go to https://sites.google.com/site/onebookonenewpaltz/one-book-one-new-paltz-2012/the-submission-events-nov-11—17-2012.