Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Butterfly Mosque:A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press
The extraordinary story of an all-American girl’s conversion to Islam and her ensuing romance with a young Egyptian man, The Butterfly Mosque is a stunning articulation of a Westerner embracing the Muslim world.

When G. Willow Wilson—already an accomplished writer on modern religion and the Middle East at just twenty-seven—leaves her atheist parents in Denver to study at Boston University, she enrolls in an Islamic Studies course that leads to her shocking conversion to Islam and sends her on a fated journey across continents and into an uncertain future.

She settles in Cairo where she teaches English and submerges herself in a culture based on her adopted religion. And then she meets Omar, a passionate young man with a mild resentment of the Western influences in his homeland. They fall in love, entering into a daring relationship that calls into question the very nature of family, belief, and tradition. Torn between the secular West and Muslim East, Willow records her intensely personal struggle to forge a "third culture” that might accommodate her own values without compromising the friends and family on both sides of the divide.

I have to start off by saying that this one is 1) not necessarily a "YA" title (which is what I normally read and review) and 2) not one that I would normally pick up to read. With that being said, though, I am beyond glad that I did read it. Jaxon and I had taken our weekly trip to the library and this was on a "Feature" shelf at our local library. The cover got me in first and then when I read the blurb I thought, "Why not? I will give it a shot" and a few days later I was finished. It normally doesn't take me any time to read, but this book made me think as I was reading (heaven forbid, right) so I wanted to do it justice. 

As the child of a Baptist minister who is also a religion professor, I feel that I have a broad knowledge of the religions of the world and the basics to each one. Not all of the details, but enough to get by. My dad is very knowledgeable about world religions (teaches classes on it every year) so this book was one that I have taken to him and said... "You have to read this!" Getting a first hand account of someones conversion to Islam and their journey through the trials and obstacles is one that is very personal and often never shared by new converts (not just in Islam but in many cultures and religions). I learned a lot through Wilson's honest portrayal of her life and the amazing journey she took. This memoir was beautifully written and through her eyes, I was able to walk the streets of Cairo and experience her life. I enjoyed and appreciated every step. 

One of the main things that I realized from this novel is that as much of a "news junkie" as I am, I don't always understand what is going on. If nothing else, this book has challenged me to be more aware of news issues. It doesn't seem like any coincidence to me that as I was reading this book, the people of Egypt were protesting and trying to get their president to step down (he did, three days after I finished the book). I highly encourage you to read this book if you are interested in life issues and world issues... or you could just be like me and read it because it looks good! You never know what you are going to get out of a book and this time, I got way more than I bargained for!!

Happy reading!!

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