The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam
by G. Willow Wilson
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
I’m still not much in the headspace to do in-depth reviews on books. It’s all I can do to even read a book for leisure right now during COVID and while I’m also working my degree. The isn’t a massive book review but I’m at least documenting that I read it.
This library book really crept up on me. I was expecting it to be one thing and yet it was another. I don’t feel like any review I do of it will do it justice until I read it a second time and that time I need to highlight and make comments that I couldn’t do in a library book. This book needs time for me to process it.
As a devout atheist, just as the author used to be, there is almost zero information in my mind about Islam as a religion, being Muslim, and to be fair the Middle East in general. I mean, I know where it is geographically, but as a typical American that learned world history in 70s-90s I know next to nothing. Maybe I know a little but it’s minimal. Therefore, with almost each chapter I read I created more questions and more thoughts for myself that then clouded how I read the rest of the book. Sometimes I couldn’t even focus on what she was saying about Islam or an American living in the Middle East as my brain was trying to process these rules it seems that living there seems to guide for every person. The book made me angry and inquisitive at the same time but I’m coming at it from a Westerners perspective and one that typically thinks unpleasant thoughts about organized religion. the last half of the book got more political than I wanted it to be. My expectations were that it was going to be more of a social and cultural review of living there and not a political but I also see how living there gets political.
I didn’t read any reviews about the book beforehand as I didn’t want them to cloud my judgement. I had an opinion they might get political. I still haven’t read any and don’t want to until I can read this again when I have my own copy and can devote more time to it.
The Butterfly Mosque, journalist G. Willow Wilson’s remarkable story of converting to Islam and falling in love with an Egyptian man in a volatile post-9/11 world, was praised as “an eye-opening look at a misunderstood and often polarizing faith” (Booklist) and “a tremendously heartfelt, healing cross-cultural fusion” (Publishers Weekly). Inspired by her experience during a college Islamic Studies course, Wilson, who was raised an atheist, decides to risk everything to convert to Islam and embark on a fated journey across continents and into an uncertain future. She settles in Cairo, where she attempts to submerge herself in a culture based on her adopted religion, and where she meets Omar, a man with a mild resentment of the Western influences in his homeland. They begin a daring relationship that calls into question the very nature of family, belief, and tradition. Torn between the secular West and Muslim East, Wilson records her intensely personal struggle to forge a “third culture” that might accommodate her values without compromising them or the friends and family on both sides of the divide.