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June 3, 2010

Book Notes - G. Willow Wilson ("The Butterfly Mosque")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

G. Willow Wilson is my favorite comics writer. Her series AIR is one of only two comic books (along with Fables) I pick up every month, and her graphic novel Cairo is a book I often recommend to fledgling comics fans.

The Butterfly Mosque's subtitle, "A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam" is a bit misleading (but in a good way). Wilson's tale does include her own story of love and religious conversion, but her lyrical prose illuminates the people and cultures she encounters along the way.

G. Willow Wilson's The Butterfly Mosque offers rare and important insight into the Muslim world and faith in one of the year's most important books.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Through her deepening relationship with Omar, she also learned Arabic and embraced the ways Islam was woven into the daily fabric of existence, such as the rituals of Ramadan and Friday prayers at the mosque. Arguably, Wilson's decision to take up the headscarf and champion the segregated, protected status of Arab women can be viewed as odd; however, her work proves a tremendously heartfelt, healing cross-cultural fusion."

In her own words, here is G. Willow Wilson's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam:

I never saw myself writing a memoir, certainly not at the ripe old age of 27. What I like writing best are essays and fiction, which constituted the majority of my work before a critical mass of friends and colleagues suggested I write a book about my own unorthodox life. The result was The Butterfly Mosque, a love letter to the city of Cairo and the incredible people I met there as a young American convert to Islam. It was not an easy book to write. We live at a time in history that is very unforgiving to people who walk back and forth across cultural battle lines, discovering pieces of themselves in the enemy camp. I'm happy to see my first full-length book on the shelves, but more than that, I'm looking forward to the day when books like it are no longer necessary.

I don't listen to music while I write, but I do listen to music when I walk--and I walk everywhere. Walking and listening to music are what put me in the right state to tell stories. Appropriately, my Butterfly Mosque-inspired playlist will be somewhat eclectic: Arabic pop I heard in the Cairo streets, American pop I listened to when I needed to get away from the Cairo streets. And some other things that defy categorization. I hope you enjoy these, and the book itself.

"Abl Ma Anam", Abu Elleef

My husband recently introduced me to Abu Elleef, who is taking Egypt by storm with his dry, ironic, totally unromantic songs, a complete change of pace from the weepy love ballads that have become the norm in popular Arabic music. The lyrics are from the point of view of a small child talking about all the stuff he has to do before he goes to bed. It is at once innocent and a cheekily subversive departure from pop protocol.

"Rebel Warrior", Asian Dub Foundation

This is kind of an anthem. Kind of an awesome anthem.

"Lights and Music", Cut Copy

If you want to feel like New Wave never died, Cut Copy is the band for you. A song for rambling around and reevaluating your life, something I do on a fairly regular basis.

"Hard Sun", Eddie Vedder

The man still makes good music. I hear he also still wears flannel. The world is tough, according to Eddie Vedder, and this is a song for anybody who's forgotten.

"Tararam", Mahmoud El Esseily

A very poppy pop song about a girl named after a drumbeat. Absolute pap, but who doesn't love that every once in awhile? I get this song stuck in my head on a regular basis.

"The Passenger", Iggy Pop

I believe the opposite of what those Volkswagen commercials tell you: life needs more passengers. More people who are along for the ride, who don't feel the need to control all things at all times, who aren't interested in being unassailably right. So I kind of feel like this is my theme song. I like going where the road goes, but I am not driving.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart", Joy Division

Truer words were never spoke. Actually, they were--by my high school history teacher, no less--but the message was basically the same. "Why do people fight wars?" she mused one day in class. "Is it out of hate, or out of love? You can convince someone not to hate something. But love is much more dangerous." Remember that next time you turn on the news and someone tries to tell you They Hate Us For Our Freedom.

"Allahi Allah", Niyaz

I think this song is in either Persian or Urdu, which would explain why I don't understand more than one word out of three, but if you've never heard Islamic devotional music and you love darkwave or goth folk, Niyaz--and this song in particular--is a good place to start.

G. Willow Wilson and The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Caffeinated Muslim review
Illume review
Muslim Culture Magazine review
Library Journal review
Muslimah Media Watch review
Publishers Weekly review
Vogue review

Elan interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for AIR: Volume 2
Religion Dispatches interview with the author
Talk Islam posts by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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