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The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam Paperback – June 7, 2011
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The Butterfly Mosque is replete with insights into faith, family, cross-cultural courtship and the inevitable clash of cultures,' making it an absorbing read. . . . Wilson’s memoir offers the reader valuable insights into the Islamic faith. . . . A remarkable journey, one that illuminates the humanity in us all.”The Seattle Times
Captivating . . . [An] excellent memoir . . . [that] deserves attention; not just for the clarity of [Wilson’s] style and her shrewd observations, but for her sincerity and courage in following her own truth.”The Globe and Mail
Eloquent . . . A life-altering adventure in love, faith, and surrender . . . [Wilson] wins the reader over with her courage, her keen intelligence, her insatiable hunger for truth, and her fine writing. It is riveting to watch a liberal, fiercely independent young American transform into a Muslim and an Egyptian daughter-in-law. . . . Much more than a coming-of-age story, Wilson’s memoir explores expatriates and anti-Westernism, economics and fundamentalism, Egyptian culture and feminism . . . [and] builds a bridge between the East and the West through her writing.”Charlotte Observer
Wilson’s book, particularly in these treacherous times of mistrust and paranoia, is a masterpiece of elegance and determination. . . . Wilson has written one of the most beautiful and believable narratives about finding closeness with God that makes even the most secular reader wince with pleasure for her. . . . A natural-born storyteller.”The Denver Post
Wilson skillfully conveys the terms of complex sociological discord. . . . Her careful examination and forthright wit make her an ideal ambassador to those who haven’t . . . separated [Islam] from its attendant terrorist factions and stereotypes. . . . Wilson has the objective sensitivity to understand the attitudes and arguments facing her; she’s multicultural, eloquent and humbly persuasive. And even better, she knows how to tell a great story.”Paste Magazine
Wilson’s illuminating memoir offers keen insights into Islamic culture. . . . An eye-opening look at a misunderstood and often polarizing faith, Wilson’s memoir is bound to spark discussion.”Booklist (starred review)
More than one skeptical reader was thoroughly won over by [Wilson’s] lack of preachiness or self-righteousness.”Elle (Readers’ Prize)
A gorgeously written memoir about what it means to be human in a fractured world, told with warmth and wit to spare. The Butterfly Mosque is a book that will stay with you for years.”Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and How to Win a Cosmic War
Satisfying and lyrical . . . [The Butterfly Mosque] proves a tremendously heartfelt, healing cross-cultural fusion.”Publishers Weekly
[An] honest and uplifting memoir . . . [that] embracesnot demonizesboth Muslims and the West as critical foundations for [Wilson’s] spiritual journey.”The Huffington Post
Thoughtful . . . Wilson’s gorgeously written, deeply felt memoir is more than a plea for understanding. It’s also a love story and an exploration of life in a culture far removed from ours. . . . [The Butterfly Mosque] pulls aside the veil on a world many Americans judge based on thin, sometimes ugly, media stereotypes. Wilson’s sincere love for her faith blooms on almost every page [and] that heartfelt desire to know The Other infuses the book with soul.”--Boulder Daily Camera
Memoirs like Wilson’s continue to be an important counterpoint to the tales of Mideast belligerence that fill the nightly news.”Winnipeg Free Press
About the Author
Visit Willow's website at gwillowwilson.com
- Publisher : Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 7, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802145337
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802145338
- Item Weight : 12.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #711,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
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The main negative for me was that reading this book, you would think no other American or Westerner has ever visited Egypt while also trying to be sensitive to cultural differences. She tended to generalize based on the bad seeds in her own culture, while looking only up at anyone in the new culture. Also, I didn't understand why she was making life-changing decisions so quickly, like snap judgments.
This was a unique adventure and for that reason alone is worth a read. I appreciated the author's honesty with herself and the world that she wanted to be Muslim. That took moxie. She was pretty young when living this book and I suspect I'll be 5-starring something of hers someday!
All that was fascinating!
But there's also a lot about her religious path- and, I admit, I just don't get it. The things she finds inspiring, religiously, are completely opposite my own spiritual path. For examples: she finds submitting to the ineffable to be elevating, while I find it debasing; she finds making common ground with people who don't share her religion to be demeaning, while I find it a blessing. (But then, that's one of the reasons I'm Pagan!)
It was very well-written, evocative, and honest, and I appreciate that! For me, it was a fascinating window into attitudes I just don't comprehend, and a very different culture with its own strengths and weaknesses.
So, why two stars? Well, I enjoyed the look at Cairo and Egyptian society during the Bush administration; but the book cuts off right as (spoilers) Willow and her husband Omar are about to emigrate back to America. We never get to see what happens to them? Do they Westernize? Do they decide to stay? Does Omar hate living in America? Is Islam different here than in Egypt? Is there latent islamophobia? How do they handle it? A million questions present from a cliffhanger.
If Willow really wanted her western audience to understand the plight of Muslims in America and how westernization is destroying Islamic culture, you'd think she would jump at the chance to show the contrast in a literal way – through Omar's perspective on America. Is it really so different? What stories do they have when they go visit Cairo again, if they do? How does Willow's extended family process this? It is this separation that the reader fails to feel; instead, the ending feels like the reader spends so much time in the culture of interdependence Willow discusses, with no independent culture to contextualize it.
Maybe Willow thinks all Americans are the same? That we all know what her life was like before she went to Egypt, and what it was like after she got back – but we don't. She fails to give us the other side of this story, instead remaining an empty character in which she struggles to tokenize herself for her audience. A shame, since with more personality she might have made more of an impact here.
Top reviews from other countries
When I was a teenager society had taught me, and I therefore believed, that all Muslim women are oppressed, which is just ridiculous. Naturally, I was incredibly intrigued by what it was that called G. Willow Wilson to the faith.
Wilson’s writing is so readable. I flew through this memoir, and it was so nice to be reading non-fiction again. She writes in a very comfortable, honest manner, and, like any book about religion, I couldn’t help wondering if this was going to be a ‘this is why you should be a Muslim’ book, and it wasn’t at all. This entire journey is very personal, and while Wilson has no agenda she does a brilliant job of shedding light on the parts of Islam that the media glosses over because it doesn’t fit with their view of the Middle East.
Even better, Wilson herself doesn’t gloss over some of the darker parts of the Middle East, she’s a very fair guide to life in Cairo in the early 2000s, and I loved reading about how she adapted to a life and culture so different from the one she grew up in, and how she dealt with feeling like she wasn’t Egyptian, but she wasn’t quite American anymore either.
To be honest, I’m not sure what to say about this book other than that I would love more people to read it. It’s a wonderful eye-opener to Islam and the Middle East, particularly as we’re introduced to this world through the eyes of a Westerner, and so respectfully and affectionately written that it pulled me through the pages with ease. I was sorry to see it end!
Listening to people speak about their conversion to Islam is always inspirational and Willow's story is no exception. Her motives, thoughts and decisions towards that point are well described and you feel you can connect with her thought process and the story she is telling... I felt like I had been on a journey with her once I had finished this book! She documents all aspects well, including how her family and friends took her decision.
The book is a good length and no part of it is over-done or goes on longer than needed to understand the point Willow is trying to make and the point each part has in the overall story. She does not preach at all in this book; it is, as the title says, 'a young woman's journey towards love and Islam', and is definitely worth a read if you are interested in spiritual and inspirational literature.