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The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam [Kindle Edition]

G. Willow Wilson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this satisfying, lyrical memoir of a potentially disastrous clash between East and West, a Boulder native and Boston University graduate found an unlikely fit living in Cairo, Egypt, and converting to Islam. Wilson embarked on a yearlong stint working at an English-language high school in Cairo right after her college graduation in 2003. She had already decided that of the three Abrahamic religions, Islam fulfilled her need for a monotheistic truth, even though her school did not include instruction in the Qur'an because it angered students and put everybody at risk. Once in Cairo, despite being exposed to the smoldering hostility Arab men held for Americans, especially for women, she found she was moved deeply by the daily plight of the people to scratch out a living in this dusty police state tottering on the edge of moral and financial collapse; she and her roommate, barely eating because they did not know how to buy food, were saved by Omar, an educated, English-speaking physics teacher at the school. Through her deepening relationship with Omar, she also learned Arabic and embraced the ways Islam was woven into the daily fabric of existence, such as the rituals of Ramadan and Friday prayers at the mosque. Arguably, Wilson's decision to take up the headscarf and champion the segregated, protected status of Arab women can be viewed as odd; however, her work proves a tremendously heartfelt, healing cross-cultural fusion. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After an illness forces her to face her own mortality at age 18, Wilson, the child of two atheists, finds herself in search of religion. The faith that feels right for her is Islam, but in the wake of 9/11, she has difficulties embracing it fully. It isn't until she makes the decision to move to Cairo to teach at an English-language school that she is able to immerse herself in the religion she has come to love and become a Muslim. When she falls in love with Omar, an Egyptian physics teacher, Wilson becomes increasingly open about her faith, despite the reactions she fears from her friends and family. Though adjusting to life in Egypt takes some work—from learning the ins and outs of the complex marketplace to respecting societal divisions between men and women—Wilson finds herself warmly embraced and welcomed by Omar's family. Wilson's illuminating memoir offers keen insights into Islamic culture, distinguishing carefully between the radical fundamentalists who hate the West and the majority of peaceful Muslims. An eye-opening look at a misunderstood and often polarizing faith, Wilson's memoir is bound to spark discussion. --Kristine Huntley

Product Details

  • File Size: 1980 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XVYZ9A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,096 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! May 19, 2010
By W. Ali
Willow's honest and uplifting memoir "Butterfly Mosque" is living proof that an individual can maintain fidelity both to one's American and Muslim roots without mutual exclusivity or an "internal" clash of civilizations. Instead, Willow's "unholy" juxtaposition of both worlds, as brilliantly told in this memoir, is in fact a successful modern marriage of fluidity, cultural awareness, and open-mindedness that embraces--not demonizes--both Muslims and the West as critical foundations for her spiritual journey.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest to the Bone and Beautifully Written! September 12, 2010
G. Willow Wilson is honest to the bone, and I laughed and cried by turns at the vivid and poetic account of her life's journey in The Butterfly Mosque.

From a student's philosophic interest in Islam to a religious awakening in the hospital while suffering from what she calls adrenal distress, to Egypt, where she accepted a teaching position for a year, to meeting Omar, her adored and adoring soon-to-be Sufi husband and his extended family--all against the backdrop of the Middle Eastern way of life in Cairo, that overcrowded, overhot, overdusty great city of the Nile.

Willow's descriptive and analytical powers are at once affectionate and insightful. The Middle Eastern way of life, with its emphasis on family and community interdependence instead of independence, its Islamic tradition of courtesy and hospitality, and its foundation of religion woven into every aspect of daily living, is something few in the secular West seem to appreciate.

Indeed, the Middle East division of the State Department as well as Western Think Tanks and Islamic Studies seminars would benefit greatly if The Butterfly Mosque were required reading.

Her candor is both refreshing and thoughtfully intelligent, and her bravery in forging a common ground, a space in which to live with her husband and within Islam the way her heart beckoned, is to glimpse what is left unsaid, but there between the lines--those that accept their calling and follow their heart are on the Divine path, no matter their religion.

If you have not yet read this wise and intimate memoir, buy a copy now, or order it online here, or check it out of your local library. Willow's is a life worth knowing.

Highly Recommended!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring! June 18, 2010
Willow's journey exemplifies both the complex interweaving of cultural, spiritual, and personal influences of religious faith -- a truth serum countering the mainstream media's one-dimensional portrayals -- and the sort of "Us/Them"-dissolving cultural experiences we need to read and see more of. Countless have fallen into the pit of Absolutes in their attempt to walk the tightrope of Religious and Cultural Understanding, but Willow's brave balancing act is as graceful and flowing as her writing style.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By noone
The Butterfly Mosque is a lovely tale of an American woman's travel to Egypt and eventual marriage into a middle-class Egyptian family. The author is very intelligent and adept at making complex yet concise observations about life in a different culture. Much of the book is taken up by her day-to-day affairs and discovery of satisfaction in being a housewife: learning how to buy chickens in the market or becoming accustomed to differing gender relations such as not conversing with strange men and learning to accept and even welcome the protective attitude of men towards her. As such, it would probably be better classified as travel writing than memoir.

Her observations of American and Egyptian cultures are astute, however there are moments when she risks overgeneralizing, and is particularly harsh towards other Westerners. While perhaps deserved in some instances, she seems to fall into the phenomenon of those who have joined a new group and, having recently become aware of their past insensitivities and gaffs, are eager to distance themselves from others.

I agree with other reviews that note the limited information about her 'journey to Islam'. The reasons she gives for her conversion seem somewhat superficial and leave the reader wanting more. Given its classification as a memoir, one also longs for more information about her American and Egyptian family and her relationship to them. Her sketches of family members are tender yet minimal. As written everyone seems generally happy and supportive about her conversion, marriage, and decision to live in Egypt. While this may be so, one can't help but wonder about tensions behind the scenes. Of course in a memoir it's always a delicate balance between what to keep private and what to expose.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gift April 13, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Willow went to Egypt with nothing more than a teaching job and an urge to learn about Islam from the people who live it. Raised an atheist, she did not wrestle with the usual conundrum of whether or not Jesus was the son of God and a savior. She decided (without the help of a Muslim boyfriend) that the evidence for the existence of God not only held water, but held water within Islam.

Her story, however, does not focus upon this process, nor upon how she fell in love with an Egyptian and got married. Hers is a story that pulls the disparate elements of her life into a whole that makes sense. It's a multi-layered story that not only reveals who she is as an American, but who the Egyptians are, and how the enormous, but sometimes subtle differences between American and Egyptian culture really do clash in ways we cannot predict.

She writes authentically, honestly. I know this because I, too, married an Egyptian, and spent some time in Egypt. No American can write about living in Egypt without addressing the difficulties of daily life there, or the discomfort of trying to stay healthy in a polluted environment. At the same time, no one can deny the spirit of generosity and optimism that percolates through the national character of Egyptians. Egyptians themselves are what make Egypt livable and actually lovable.

This book is a gift to those who would venture into the waters of an intercultural life. It is especially good reading for those who have an interest in Egypt. It is not an apology, nor is it a explanation of, or justification for, the more controversial aspects of Islam. It is a memoir, not a textbook.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not my favorite book but I did read the whole thing!
Published 22 days ago by Marilyn Leipper
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
It may be partly due to my love for autobiographies, but I loved this book.

The author's internal struggle in her reversion to Islam is personal and moving, and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by aneesa
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a great personal and cultural adventure of spirit, nitty gritty, family and love.
Published 1 month ago by joanie alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars A primer for any American woman who marries an Egyptian
I really only have one word that can describe this book. Al-haqq. So refreshing to read something written by someone who "gets it." May Allah bless this this author.
Published 5 months ago by Julie Price
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
will recommend to others.
Published 5 months ago by usman ibrahim
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not all that interesting.
Published 6 months ago by Daniel Schoon
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be required reading
Gorgeous, thoughtful book. I loved every page.
Published 6 months ago by IAMama
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful read
An interesting autobiography. A good book to read for non-Muslim Americans. Islam has been portrayed correctly. Looking forward to read more of your books.
Published 8 months ago by shymaa
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting! Just for bookclub!
I would not have read this book had it not been selected for our bookclub. It's an interesting read but I found parts of it contradictory and difficult to absorb. Read more
Published 9 months ago by DF
5.0 out of 5 stars Restrictive Muslim faith
A great learning experience of the above religion. A wake up call about why it would not work for me and
most Americans I know. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Bonnie B. Dixon
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More About the Author

Born in 1982, G. Willow Wilson began her writing career at 17 as a music and DJ critic for Boston's Weekly Dig. After moving to Egypt in 2003, Willow's articles and essays on Islam and the Middle East appeared in publications including the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, and Glamour. A lifelong fan of comics and graphic novels, Willow's first ongoing comic book series, AIR, was nominated for an Eisner Award. Her memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, the story of her conversion to Islam and life in Egypt, was named Best Book of 2010 by the Seattle Times. Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, debuts in 2012.

She enjoys British films, cooking, and World of Warcraft, and holds a purple belt in kajukenbo.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#98 in Books > Teens
#98 in Books > Teens

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