Friday, April 26, 2013

The Butterfly Mosque

by G. Willow Wilson
New York, N.Y. : Atlantic Monthly Press, c2010.

Willow becomes intrigued with Islam while a college student. She takes Arabic, moves to Egypt to work as a teacher, and quietly converts. Then, she meets a young man named Omar and falls in love.

This memoir of an American convert to Islam is as complex as Willow's (or, when you think about it, perhaps anyone's) identity. She thinks deeply about a lot of things, reflecting on the variety of Muslim beliefs, what makes a terrorist, and the attitude of the West towards Islam, all while telling her very personal story. The first half of the book, when she talks about her courtship with Omar, was the smoothest part of the read for me. While I'm a Christian, I could relate to the way she talked about her faith and her assurance in it. The rest of the book is less fluid, a string of occurrences I had trouble placing in time, and started to feel more like a lecture than a memoir. I disliked her tendency to say "even the most liberal," which seemed to suggest that someone of a conservative persuasion couldn't possibly see a Muslim as anything but a terrorist, while the liberals at least tried to understand, even if they didn't always get it right. Of course, it's a complex issue, and I certainly can't argue with her personal experience. I found it eye-opening and compelling reading, and am very much looking forward to reading her first novel, Alif the Unseen.

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