Rummanah Aasi
  I had a wonderful time participating in the Middle East Reading Challenge hosted by Helen at Helen's Book Blog. I just wished that I registered much earlier so I could have fit in more books, however, I do plan on reading more books in this region. I've learned so much. I read G. Willow Wilson's memoir titled The Butterfly Mosque as my last entry for this reading challenge.


Description: The author describes her conversion to Islam and journey to Egypt where she taught English, learned about the Middle Eastern culture, and fell in love with an Egyptian man. 


Review: The Butterfly Mosque is a satisfying, well written memoir that is equally a romance and travelogue. When I started The Butterfly Mosque, I didn't know what to expect. I had never read a book about someone converting to a religion, especially Islam. 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 fits her needs is Islam, but post 9/11 she faces difficulties embracing it fully, feeling as if she is betraying her country, etc. However her interest in studying Islam, Arabic, and learning about the Middle East continues to grow. When she is given the opportunity to move to Cairo and 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.
  Her experiences at Cairo are eye opening and fascinating, especially with those of us who know absolutely nothing of the Egyptian culture. When she falls in love with Omar, an Egyptian physics teacher, Wilson becomes increasingly open about her faith. She openly claims Islam despite the fears that her friends and family will not accept her. Though Wilson finds herself warmly welcomed Omar's family, adjusting to life in Egypt takes time and patience. Despite speaking Arabic, following the social mores, and being an observing Muslim, Wilson isn't fully embraced by the Cairo dwellers and will probably always be known as the foreigner.
  Wilson avoids preaching how to be the "right" Muslim, keeping faith personal and instead focuses on the stereotypes of Arabs, particularly of the religious fundamentalists, and breaks them as she learns more about the religion, talks with natives, observes the society around her. As Wilson lives in Cairo, she also makes note how the different genders interact. Women's rights are most discussed, though at times the problematic issues are a bit glossed over. Still I found the memoir an enjoyable and approaching read and would recommend it to others. 


Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language in the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed or The Muslim Next Door by Sumbul Ali-Karamali
7 Responses
  1. Thank you for posting again to the Middle East Reading Challenge and thank you for participating! I just got this book for my Birthday so plan on reading it in the near future.


  2. Great review! This sounds good! I think the Cario setting would be beautiful :)


  3. I've never heard of this one before, but the title and cover are both beautiful. Thanks for the review!


  4. LoriStrongin Says:

    Sounds like a really powerful read. I love that there's authenticity to this book by chronicling parts of the author's life. Definitely going to check this one out. Thanks for the rec!


    Smiles!
    Lori


  5. Missie Says:

    Hmmm.. I don't read many memoirs and this review has me wondering why?

    I think religion is a hard topic to cover because it's such a delicate subject for many people, but it sounds like the author did a great job of telling her story with authenticity, which I'm sure is very much appreciated.


  6. Wonderful review - sounds like an excellent memoir. I think it's important to read books like this one, especially as people sometimes find it easier to accept stereotypes in their busy lives rather than looking beyond. A great challenge and excellent review! Thanks!


  7. Helen: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I really didn't expect to like it. Thanks again for hosting this great challenge!

    Nic: The setting does sound beautiful, especially when the author travels to other Middle Eastern countries.

    Hafsah: Your welcome! I hope you do check it out.

    Lori: The author does sound genuine which I really appreciated and she didn't come across as being condescending. It definitely made the book a lot easier to read.

    Missie: I tend to avoid the religion aspect too. It's too personal, which I'm glad that discussion of conversion wasn't discussed further. It's definitely a personal choice and experience which the author fully acknowledges.

    Linds: My favorite aspect of the book was the author acknowledging her own stereotypes and then seeing how wrong she is. There's lots we don't know about this area and only rely on what we see/hear from our media.


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