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.