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The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,778 Ratings  ·  358 Reviews
The extraordinary story of an all-American girl’s conversion to Islam and her ensuing romance with a young Egyptian man, The Butterfly Mosque is a stunning articulation of a Westerner embracing the Muslim world.

When G. Willow Wilson—already an accomplished writer on modern religion and the Middle East at just twenty-seven—leaves her atheist parents in Denver to study at Bo
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 2010)
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3rd out of 151 books — 70 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 05, 2012 Catherine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: egypt, iran, spirit, gender, 2011, islam
Despite what the subtitle of this book might suggest, this isn't a frothy little 'white girl has epiphany away from home' piece. Instead it's a wonderful, complicated, thoughtful exploration of Islam, politics, family, and belonging. Wilson became interested in Islam while in college in the United States, finding that it provided the best explanation for things she already felt and believed but for which she had no name. During a year spent in Egypt to teach English, she personally and formally ...more
Jennifer Abdo
Feb 28, 2011 Jennifer Abdo rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: found at library
Shelves: memoir
If you're a Christian and still think all Muslims are secretly terrorists and the true Islam promotes terrorism, this is probably a book you should read. As an American convert to Islam, she has some good perspective and insights.

Again (as with Jehan Sadat), raised an atheist (Sadat being Muslim of course), I don't think she has a good grasp of Christianity when she talks about it. She contrasts Islam with Calvinism and Catholicsm and lists a bunch of things I as a Christian don't believe in eit
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 05, 2015 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read2015
Growing up in a Christian home, I have read many Christian conversion stories in my lifetime. This was refreshing on many levels, but I think the part that was most compelling was reading how G. Willow was drawn to converting to Islam after being raised an atheist. At the same time she is converting to a new culture, since she moved to Egypt after college and ended up marrying an Egyptian. That is a lot of change in a short time, and her insights into the culture of Egyptian Muslims, the intrica ...more
Jul 22, 2010 Eliza rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This book resonated a lot with me. It tells the story of an American upper middle class woman that recently graduated undergrad w/ a history degree from Boston U. She decides to move to Egypt to work at an English school there. She converts to Islam, learns Arabic, falls in love with an Egyptian man, eventually marries him, and becomes part of Egyptian culture.

As the author discusses her first interests in Islam and the process where she learned more about it, partially thru her liberal arts edu
Courtney Huber
Apr 20, 2011 Courtney Huber rated it liked it
I appreciated learning about Islam and Egyptian culture, which was my primary reason for wanting to read this widely hailed memoir. I must say, though, I felt that the author skims the surface of some very important, complex issues. I often found myself thinking, "But, wait--what about...?" Aspects of Cairo's societal environment are frustratingly glossed over, such as how women are routinely harassed by men in the streets and frequently "groped" and "molested" during political protests. She bar ...more
Jul 15, 2010 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A highly thought-provoking book. Wilson does a magnificent job of using her own life as a way of presenting a very nuanced picture of Islam and life in the Middle East. The Boston Globe recently ran an article about her, and, reading the book, I was reminded of the comments left by readers, exposing a lot of fear and bigotry while accusing Wilson of simple-minded naivete. Her writing, however, shows her to be both wise and level-headed.

If I had any complaints, it would be that she tends to rush
Ellen Keim
Oct 26, 2011 Ellen Keim rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
The title promises more than the book delivers. It's been a while since I read the book, but I remember being disappointed by how little she discusses about her conversion to and love for Islam. This is mostly about her experiences living in another culture. Even the love story seems dispassionate, as if she is merely recounting facts. I ended up with the feeling that there was far more to the story.

This isn't to say that the book isn't worth reading. The author offers valuable insights into wha
Aug 01, 2012 Ellen rated it really liked it
First off, I have to admit that the entire time I was reading this book, I was racking my brain to try to remember if I taught high school English to this student. She attended the school where I taught when I was there, and her name is very familiar. I've taught now for about 30 years, I've taught a number of students and that high school was a large one. Her name is so familiar, but I'm thinking that whilst she was friends with some of my students, I didn't actually teach her. Pity. I loved re ...more
Mar 11, 2016 hanna rated it liked it
This was an interesting read. I'm left wondering if the author's thoughts and beliefs have evolved today, does she still consider Sunni Islam a cold, threatening fundamentalist sect (she didn't state it, but she sure did imply it), does she still coin people who negate shirk as "Wahhabis". Have I ever mentioned I hate that term? While I enjoyed many of her insights into life in Cairo and agree on most aspects wholeheartedly, I feel many passages in the book come off as apologetic. She was consta ...more
Book Riot Community
G. Willow Wilson moved to Egypt to teach after college. She already had an inkling to convert to Islam, but she was apprehensive about having to explain her choices to family and friends who would certainly not understand her religion or her burgeoning relationship with a Muslim man. Part memoir, part philosophy, and all heart, this book is one that is truly humbling. Wilson addresses the prejudices of the West and western media, the fallout after 9/11, and the ways in which differences in cultu ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: علاقه مندان به مسلمانان غربی و فرهنگ مصر
Shelves: دارمشان
کمی افکار نویسنده برایم نا ملموس بود که شاید به دلیل دوری فرهنگ هاست. در طول کتاب آرزو می کردم کاش کمی راجع به مصر اطلاعات داشتم تا بهتر حرف های نویسنده را می فهمیدم.
دیدار نویسنده از ایران برایم جالب بود. البته شاید کمی با ایرانی که من می شناسم تفاوت داشت. بالاخره زاویه ی دید افراد متفاوت است.
به طور کلی تجربه ی جالی هم برای ویلسون و هم برای من بود. یک بار خواندنش بدون قضاوت های اولیه و بدون درست انگاشتن تمام کتاب، توصیه می شود.
Jul 20, 2010 Mia rated it did not like it
The operative word in the title is probably "young".
Marmor Owais
Jan 07, 2015 Marmor Owais rated it it was amazing

There are so many peaceful moment I felt while reading this book, but the most amazing and truthful one was when she converted. She describes her as "In the darkness over the Mediterranean, in no country, under no law, I made peace with God. I called him Allah"

Reading the butterfly mosque & hearing the stories of conversion of men like Jeffery Lang, Muhammed Asad and so many others, one of the things I learned that you should always listen to stories like these to feel ashamed of yourself fo
May 05, 2011 Mkherbouch rated it liked it
So, I'm a Muslim woman living in the US, no veil, not in the least conservative, etc. I'm always wary of those who have converted, they're usually a little too zealous for me. It was a little hard to swallow her conversion tale, it was all pretty glossed over - too smooth and existential. I really wanted to like her, I really did, I just couldn't quite get there. Omar was too smooth, too perfect. The relationship never felt explored,like why they really fell in love.

I did appreciate her introdu
May 29, 2013 Sahaniza rated it it was amazing
"I had gained so much more than I had lost." Truly love this book. Motivates me to open the Quran and read it again after she describes, "Nothing felt as right as what I had seen in the Quran." And I agree with Islam as antiauthoritarian sex-positive monotheism. It is because that opinion puts so much faith in honouring your own body and self; how grateful we should be to come to this world from a sacred marital relationship between our parents. I am not a saint to condemn sex before marriage an ...more
Tuscany Bernier
May 22, 2016 Tuscany Bernier rated it really liked it
I highly enjoyed this story. It helped me understand a bit better why so many born Muslims ask us converts why we converted to Islam. Truthfully, there as many answers as there are people as to why somebody would follow a certain religion or not. This book was an excellent reminder of such ideas.

However, the book also made me feel things on a personal level that I'm not sure I know how to put into words. Questions that make me curious if they even have a place in a book review since they were no
Aban (Aby)
Oct 09, 2010 Aban (Aby) rated it really liked it
This memoir written by a young, white American woman, explores her journey from atheism to adoption of Islam as her religion. Once this decision is made she goes to live in Cairo, falls in love with a Moslem Egyptian, marries and adopts her husband's way of life. None of this is easily done, especially as the conversion and move occur soon after the horrors of September 11, 2001. In Cairo, Willow Wilson has to change from being an independent American to living within a culture which values 'int ...more
SISTERS Magazine
Feb 26, 2013 SISTERS Magazine rated it it was amazing
Written down to precise perfection, G Willow Wilson’s memoir about her journey to Islam is rich and intense. Reverting in Egypt, Wilson’s wonderful experiences of navigating through love, faith and culture add a new dimension of a convert’s sojourn. Her prose is lyrical and she has the canny ability to draw out profound lessons from each of the incidents. A bit controversial at times, Wilson is unabashed and rebellious. Her description of Cairo and the Middle Eastern culture also makes for an in ...more
Seyed Hosein Morakabi
لطافت، فهم چندلایه، زندگی، جوانی، آمریکا، ایمان، شیفتپارادایم، تصوف، رسانه، صراحت، احساسات، انسان، نگرانی دائم، دین، فرم
و شاید در یک کلمه: محبت
من این کتاب را زیسته بودم.
Amirhossain Khairandish
مسجد پروانه: سفر دختر امریکایی به عشق و مسلمانی
شنیدن داستان انسان های غیر عادی واقعی به خودی خود جذاب هست حالا این آدم غیر عادی کلی عنصر متناقض هم داشته باشد که دیگر نور علی نور میشود. دختر باشد، امریکایی وطن پرست باشد، بی دین باشد ولی اینقدر جسور هم باشد که پا روی همه هویتش بگذارد و برای تجربه واقعیت ها به غرب ُآسیا (یا به تعبیر خودش خاور میانه) بیاید، مسلمان بشود، ازدواج بکند، خودش را با زندگی شرقی عربی اسلامی وفق بدهد و ماندگار بشود!
همین ها به نظرم برای خواندنی بودن کتاب کافی است. ولی بیشتر
Dec 19, 2015 Kaia rated it really liked it
Shelves: global, non-fiction, 2015
I picked up The Butterfly Mosque after seeing it recommended several times online as a must-read in the light of the Paris Attacks and rampantly growing Islamophobia. I was feeling a bit helpless about it all and I figured the very least I could do was improve my own understanding, at least a little bit.

So, now it is my turn to tell you all to ignore the sappy-sounding subtitle and read The Butterfly Mosque. Wilson writes with a lot of nuance about converting, and trying to negotiate life and l
Nov 12, 2012 Yasmin rated it it was ok
Curiously as a convert you would think the author would have felt inner peace, she never once mentioned that. In the first quarter of the book she mentioned a relationship with God, but as the book progressed that got pushed somewhere into the background. Not that I'm a religious person at all and I didn't expect the book to win converts but I would have thought that such a tremendous time in a person's life would warrant more page space. I suppose one could argue that this book is idealy for wh ...more
Dec 11, 2013 Cara rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, as of course anyone could guess I would. I don't know why it took me so long to read it - maybe because I knew I would find a lot to relate to in it (conversion to Islam, falling in love with, marrying, then eventually bringing to America a nice North African man, etc.) It was nice to read the experiences of someone who has been through so many of the same things that I have (but who writes a hell of a lot better!), but on another level, it was painful to read my way through s ...more
Erin Stuhlsatz
Mar 04, 2015 Erin Stuhlsatz rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I was astonished by how much I liked this book. I can't remember why I put it on hold. Maybe it was recommended by a friend who studied abroad in Egypt? Who knows. Anyway, it is the memoir of an American woman, only a couple of years older than me, who moved to Egypt after college to teach English and learn about Egypt. She converts to Islam, falls in love with another teacher (a native Egyptian), gets married, and does indeed learn a lot about Egypt.

I really enjoyed how Islam was portrayed in
K. Lincoln
Sep 28, 2012 K. Lincoln rated it really liked it
Religious converts make me squirm. Especially those whose conversion entails a major change not only in their beliefs but also in their culture.

As a closet Unitarian myself, I find religious certainty at once fascinating and unfathomable. Having lived in Japan, and experienced both Buddhist Americans (of Christian background) and Christian Japanese, I still find it difficult to imagine leaving behind the customs of my childhood to pledge myself --body and soul-- to a culture I have known only a
Dec 08, 2010 SaraKa rated it it was amazing
With nearly palpable descriptions of Cairene life through the eyes of a former atheist, her story is simply beautiful. Wilson is extremely insightful, candid and open-minded in her exposition of Islamic and Egyptian traditions and perspectives through the eyes of a newcomer; she is always sure to incorporate and understand divergent opinions and ways of life, which is why I found her journey to be both fascinating and refreshing in these times of misdirected hostility and unjust treatment of Isl ...more
Andrew David
This is an important memoir, one that I think offers a perspective we don't hear in our culture today--an American woman moves to Egypt, converts to Islam, and marries a Muslim Egyptian. It's the kind of memoir I would encourage anyone to read who has a passing interest in how the Western world and Middle East can begin to understand each other or for anyone who finds the very notion of a Western woman converting to Islam--that oppressive, war-mongering, radical religion--absurd.

That said, I'm
I really adored this book. I found G. Willow Wilson through the Prize formerly known as Orange longlist for fiction and devoured her novel, "Alif the Unseen."

Wilson manages to balance the authenticity and vulnerability of memoir without being irritating and dishy and oversharing about intimate matters. I thought this was a real balancing act,particularly considering the subject matter: navigating her new faith as a convert; the challenge and the accomplishments of navigating a new, profoundly d
Chris Aylott
Aug 01, 2010 Chris Aylott rated it really liked it
It's quite unfair that a 27-year-old already has this good a memoir to write, and is this good at writing it. Willow Wilson is a young woman who became fascinated with Islam in college, then moved to Cairo, converted, and settled down with an Egyptian husband.

Egypt is a rather nasty police state, but Wilson draws a warm portrait of the ordinary people who live within it. She sees a unique idealism among them, an urgent will for rebirth and reform, "because everyone is aware that this very momen
Erika Palmquist Smith
Aug 13, 2012 Erika Palmquist Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
I passed this memoir over at the library time and again, I think because on some level I felt that I'd "heard enough" of Muslim culture through the news and in the political sphere. But I am so so so glad that I finally picked it up. Wilson writes of her own journey through converting to Islam, and does so in a way that exposes the reader to the culture and religion of moderate Islam. As someone who was pretty much completely unfamiliar the subject, I loved the way she gently nudged the reader t ...more
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Butterfly Mosque 1 33 Apr 02, 2012 04:49PM  
  • From My Sisters' Lips
  • Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim
  • The Hadj: An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Love in a Headscarf
  • Daughters of Another Path: Experiences of American Women Choosing Islam
  • The Bread of Angels: A Memoir of Love and Faith
  • I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim
  • The Muslim next door : the Qurʼan, the media, and that veil thing
  • A Border Passage: From Cairo to America – A Woman's Journey
  • Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women
  • "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an
  • Sexual Ethics And Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence
  • In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad
  • Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective
  • Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart
  • The Woman Who Fell from the Sky
  • If I Should Speak
  • The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam

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“to do the right thing you must sometimes defend people who don't understand you, or who fear you, or who are angry at you. There are times when you have to operate purely on faith and continue to trust human decency even when it is no longer visible.” 13 likes
“Culture belongs to the imagination; to judge it rationally is to misunderstand its function.” 10 likes
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