My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After a few years of study & hesitant belief, G. Willow Wilson travels to Cairo as a way to explore & test her nascent faith in Islam. Part memoir, part travelogue, part meditation, Wilson writes about maturing as an American & a woman & how these identities contribute to her journey as a Muslim in an Arabic country.
Wilson’s opening chapters chronicling her time at Boston College are not as smooth as her later narrative & may throw off readers. There are times throughout the book where she struggles to relate epiphanic or substantive moments that don’t quite land with me–I can see what she’s doing from a technical standpoint but I’m not totally with her. This was jarring to me because I had previously read Cairo & was immediately involved with the characters & their struggles. I think this disconnect comes from Wilson’s painful awareness of the tightrope of identities that she is walking & how careful she must be to not speak in generalities. Her perspective later on a high-profile lovechild scandal & how it clashes with an Arabic scholar’s opinion explicitly points this out.
With that said, there are beautiful moments of insight & dearly bought happiness in her story. Wilson’s explanations of Islam’s distrust of Western influences are interesting to read as a companion to The Girl Who Fell to Earth, where Al-Maria’s family is right at the crux of the confluence of these two cultures while Wilson has a more neutral perspective. Overall, a book I was glad to read & think about, as my country struggles with it’s opinions on Islam.