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)
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*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