This is a review of book The Butterfly Mosque: A young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam whose Author is Willon Wilson and published by Atlantic Monthly Press in 2010. This is memoir of an American woman who went to Egypt as an English teacher. She was brought up as an atheist and as she went to Egypt, she knew one thing that she will become a Muslim. She kept this as a secret to her family and friends as she starts her life in Cairo. As a dedicated Muslim, she met Omar who soon marries her.
The book is not only about her life, but also about the people she met and interacted with in her life. She narrates about her life in Egypt and her journey to Middle East countries such as Persia and Iran. In her narration, she strikes a balance among three stories. She gives her experience in visiting the Islamic countries, her discovery and path towards the Islamic religion and how she end up finding love with an Islamic man. In her book, she narrates about her struggles she underwent in Egypt and the way Islam changed her life. She clearly addresses the conflict she wanted to address.
She addresses the hiked discussions about modern religious identity, the conflicts of the Muslims raised in the America in first and second generation, blessing of the atheist figures, which is mixed like Richards Dawkins and the recent Muslim comic phenomena The 99 Muslim geeks, and she covered beliefs on the misrepresentation of Muslims in the public. From her perspective, she is hoping for the genuine people who talk of issues that they know very well rather than talks from academic who do not talk out of experience. Their main talk entails postmodern a postcolonial era which do not help in integration of any culture. This is because they do not talk from experience but from their academic level of understanding.
The Butterfly Mosque is on of those books that are well organized. The narrations about Islam religion and Muslims, in relation to intercultural integration by an author in her own actual true story of an American Muslim convert. Her sharing of personal story of finding Islam, love and friendship is fantastic and recommended to anyone interested in about real Muslims and Islam in America. The story bridges the notion that people has towards Islam. According to the author, she says that she was introduced to a culture where by each person cares for one another. This is contrary to life in United State life.
The book portrays a lot of honesty and intelligence that are insightful, awaking, and truly helpful to all. As an American and a woman, in understanding and appreciating Middle Eastern life, Islam and women, is a very strong aspect. She has helped in increasing the dignity of women in Middle East, which is held with lesser respect compared to the male counterpart. She is also a very good ambassador of the Middle East to America where the picture of the Islamic religion is not taken with a lot of respect.
The insights that are given in the book are valid and they reveal the splendor and the grit of what it is to be a Muslim and a woman. One can also appreciate the contradictions of the religion especially from the author's background. Having originated from an atheist to being converted to an Islam. Her family never shares in her opinion of becoming an Islam. She is seen as one who has lost direction and they are worried of her. This shows the kind of the colony that the current generation lives in especially in matters concerning religion. It makes even people who are lovers to part in the name of religion. The author gives courage to all the people especially who are seen as weak sex to stand on their own ground. The book is a big inspiration to the Muslim converts on how are always in dilemma on how to deal with their religious issue depending with their former background.
Willow acts as a real ambassador uniting the west with the Middle East. She integrates both western cultures with Middle East showing how she dealt with the Egyptian life. She was very strong as she withheld sickness in a foreign land. Cultural differences show also her dedication and desire towards the religion of her choice. However, her ambassadorship it seems unintentional. She talks of what is needed for the Islamic East and the American West to find equilibrium. A one-character trait she raises is honestly. She tells us that she do not like the academic way of narrating of stories that they not have experience of it. She suggests that they should write things of substance that will lead to change in people way of thinking, culture and religion. She also advocates openness in the kind of stories people talk about. She shows as the kind of notion that the people from her original country has toward Middle East. They seem to be contrary to what she came to learn and uphold as her culture. There is also need also to have understanding in the kind of narration one makes towards anything. This can be achieved by real experience of it. It is also advisable to be sincere with yourself. Chose what you desire with courage regardless of resistance provided without hurting anyone.
The story goes beyond the transformation experience of religion and a new culture. It also talks about a love story above all. The love story is not only romantic in nature but also very inspiring. It shows an unexpected happening as a converted Islam from America marries a Muslim. Wilson memoir captures the diversity and complexity of being an American Muslim in Middle East in his time of religion indifference. She tries to maneuver through the challenges of accepting Islam as well as preserving her American identity. It was difficult to cope up with the situation but at the end, she finds a personal balance that works for her. This had to be achieved through tolerance. The writer is seen coping up with this and stands up to a very strong woman. This has made her a role model of many.
She carefully shows the multiple layers of her individual identity. This is out of her participatory act in the new culture. For example, in her memoir she narrates about her friend Jo who punches her twice during their game of "Punchback Fundie." This shows that even those Muslims who appear so fundamental, they may actually be lighthearted at times. G. Willow Wilson is very honest, she narrates vividly in her poetic account of her life's journey in The Butterfly Mosque. This gives a mixed sensation of happiness and sadness to the reader as she creates issues so openly.
One gets a little sympathetic as she tells us her life as a philosophical student interested in Islamic religion. She told us about her suffering in the hospital from adrenal distress. The issue of marring Omar that was a decision that was not welcomed by many people especially in her home and in the Middle East was something to sympathize. She had to use her intelligence and perseverance to deal with the situation. She vividly narrates her life in Cairo that is an overcrowded city, very hot, over dusty and a great city in river Nile. She seems to enjoy her life in Egypt apart from the problems she experienced.
Her descriptive and analytical powers are at once passionate and insightful. The Middle Eastern way of life put more emphasis on family and community interdependence instead of independence. The Islamic tradition has been shown to have courtesy and hospitality. Very few secular Western people appreciate the foundation of religion intertwined into every aspect of daily living.
Willow has a refreshing and thoughtful intelligence. She is brave and forges ahead to a common ground for all. She creates a space in which to live with her husband within Islam. She is so reckoning and gives a glimpse of what is left unsaid. However, the bottom line of the whole idea is that those who accept their calling and they are not compromised by anything but follow their hearts; they are always on the divine path regardless of their religion.
The memoir goes against old tired stereotypes about the Middle East that had been told over the years. It brings about a fresh voice and an authentic experience of and many insights of life spend away in a very controversial manner. Whatever the views of Islam or Arabs that was there before, the story tends to shed light from an impartial point of view. The story is a well-written memoir having an inside view that is inter-laced with love and faith. The characteristic of both have been derived from experience making us have first hand information.
I agree with other that the story has some limitation in her information about her journey to Islam. The reasons she gives for her conversion is not detailed and leaves us with so many questions. The reader is left hanging desiring for more information especially about her life in America. This superficial information makes one to lose track thus, half backing the leader on her complete memoir. This leads to many doubts in the decision to classifying it 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 and minimal. Anyway, everyone seems generally happy and supportive about her conversion, marriage, and decision to live in Egypt. While this may be so, one cannot help but wonder about tensions behind the scenes. Of course in a memoir it is 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 closely identify with and better understand their plight. She seems naïve, in so many ways, especially for an educated young woman. She states at one point that the women are treated badly because it is Egyptian culture, not seemingly seeing the manner they are treated in most Muslim countries.
In conclusion The Butterfly Mosque has the canning ability to capture the attention of people and her experience of Islam capture is just superb. The images and stories that the author stirs using even the aspect of poems to describe her spiritual journey from America to the Middle East are memorable with a lot of honesty strengthening it. Islam and Egypt being her vocal point to her narrative are described and explored with a remarkable mix of knowledge and integrity. This makes the people have the other side of the coin especially on the converts live, challenges and how determination can work miracles. Indeed, in my opinion the book will be of much help to the Middle East State, Western Department, Islamic converts and all people who would like to get the real picture of what Islamic religion entails. It will also be beneficial to Islamic Studies seminars. This is because it integrates different cultures and makes them of more help to those who are under going denial due to their own opinion that has not been appreciated.