Customer Reviews: The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam
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on 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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on May 19, 2010
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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on 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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on April 13, 2012
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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on July 7, 2010
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. Yet it is through allowing the reader to witness difficulty that we more closey identify with and better understand their plight.

This aside, Ms. Wilson adroitly positions herself as accessible and unthreatening enough to reach Americans with little knowledge of Islam or Islamic countries. From here she mounts himdefenses of her adopted culture and religion and dismantles Western stereotypes. The last chapters of the book feel a bit cobbled together, seeming to be expanded versions from various articles she has written. Overall, however, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Islam or Egypt. Ms. Wilson is clearly a very talented writer and I look forward to her future publications.
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on July 21, 2013
Although somewhat interesting, as someone who has spent some time in Egypt, I was disappointed at her portrayal,of the country, which doesn't go much beyond what an off-tour tourist might discover in a couple of weeks. I think she exaggerated a lot things for dramatic effect. (It's not THAT hard to find a little market to buy fresh veggies. . . . or a Pizza Hut for that matter. .. in Cairo, even if you don't speak Arabic.) Moreover, I was really disappointed in her lack of depth concerning both love and her conversion to Islam. She seemed to give both about as much thought as I give to picking out a new pair of shoes or where to take a vacation. Overall, she came across as a spoiled American who wanted to shock (or rebel against) everyone from her parents to the Grand Imam, garner a lot of attention for herself in doing so, and then crow that she is a "free-thinker." . Over and over again, she seemed totally oblivious to not only the nuances, but the major trends, of both the culture and religion to which she claims devotion and to the American culture that she claims to have left.
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on July 6, 2016
The Butterfly Mosque is the memoir of an American woman raised in a secular family who discovers the value of religion during her travel to Egypt. She is there to work and stay a year in Cairo. The book follows her encounter with Egyptian society and with her own spirituality as she converts to Islam. While in Egypt, she falls in love with Omar and they get married. There is so much that I enjoyed about her memoir but it was the little details and stories of her everyday life which made this book really work for me. The story about learning to shop in the souk, and the merchant who sells Wilson a turkey to see if she can tell the difference. Wilson captures the strengths and flaws of America and also Egypt with a compelling voice. The book explores larger issues in both American and Egyptian Muslim society, and challenges the reader with observations about the way Americans and Muslims interact. I found it very interesting and informative. A 4.5 read for me.
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on May 1, 2014
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. I have actually visited Cairo so the setting help keep the pace. Her relationships with the other people in her life were also pleasant. It's a book I would not recommend unless people showed a particular interest in the Islamic religion or religion in general.
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on January 19, 2014
This little gem of a book is readable and enjoyable as either a personal memoir or a novel, although the author was obviously writing from her own specific experience. The work is more powerful than simply a personal memoir however; it has the universality of well written fiction. With it comes the ability of well written fiction to convey feelings and thoughts that are applicable to multiple situations and locations and apply to more of us humans than not. A memoir is often more equivalent to a historical documentary with a few revelations of universal interest thrown in here and there as the author grows to learn them.

This book quivers with great wisdom and insight that everyone needs today, but that few are in a position either geographically - or in terms of writing ability - to give us . Everyone - EVERYONE - should read this book. Get it right now.

Yet - it is easy and fun to read; difficult to put down.

This book addresses not only some distinct differences between two specific cultures but also the sensation of being caught between those two cultures. It is not negative; it is positive. The protagonist is torn between the positive things she found in the two cultures. There are so many cultures on this living earth. It is possible for many fortunate individuals to experience stepping into another from his or her own temporarily and experiencing the surprise and wonder of the good things in the "other" culture. This often results in a closer evaluation of ones original or "home" culture, which is a good thing. As I stated earlier, this book is a comparison of POSITIVES along with related experiences. It is done in a non-judgmental, engaging, and thought provoking way that is a fun read.

You will be surprised at the self you are when you finish the last page.
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on May 15, 2011
Having lived abroad I was interested in this book. I found it an easy read about what it is like to adapt to a new faith and a new culture. As our world grows smaller this is happening more and more. Anyone who married and lives in a very different culture has to face a myriad of challenges. I found it appealing how she addresses her own challenges and angst and yet being able to see that its just because we are different.
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