American Stories

The Butterfly Mosque
by G. Willow Wilson


The Butterfly Mosque is the memoir of an American woman raised in a secular family who discovers the value of religion during her travels. Interested in history, art, and literature, G. Willow Wilson takes a teaching job in Cairo. She meets the sincere young friend of a friend assigned to show her the ropes in the city—a highly unconventional relationship that turns into love and marriage. The book follows her encounter with Egyptian society and with her own spirituality as she converts to Islam, and about her developing relationship with her husband's family. A highly observant and self-reflective person, Wilson captures the strengths and foibles of her own and her adoptive culture with an authentic 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, examining the value of secular and religious perspectives, and about the complexity of living as a modern person. Her own work as an essayist is woven into the memoir, taking her observations to the level of the global cultural encounter, discussing issues of gender in Islam, poverty's impact on cultural relations, and the consequences of perceptions across cultural and religious divides. Wilson's story of her family, work, and travels, including a journey to Iran, grapples with the difficulty of confronting differences in social and moral codes, but finds common ground in respect for each other as complex individuals.

New York: Grove Press, 2010

Author

American author, essayist and graphic artist G. Willow Wilson was born in 1982 and grew up in New Jersey and Colorado. She lives in both the United States and Egypt. After graduating with a degree in history from Boston University, she moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she taught English, learned Arabic, and converted to Islam. A keen observer, she began to write from Cairo about modern religion and the Middle East, publishing articles in the Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine and The Canada National Post. Her memoir about her Cairo experiences, The Butterfly Mosque, was honored as 2010 Best Book of the Year by The Seattle Times. Wilson’s graphic novels include the DC/Vertigo comic book series, Air, which was nominated for an Eisner Award. Her novel Alif the Unseen was published in 2012 by Grove/Atlantic Press.

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How to Cite This Page

"Muslim Journeys | Item #165: ", October 22, 2014 http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/165.

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