G. Willow Wilson

The short synopsis of The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam (Grove Atlantic, $24) goes something like this: Privileged white girl from Boulder and B.U., Arabic script “Al Haq” tramp stamp on her back, a rebel against her secular parents, who secretly decides during a college health scare to convert to Islam because Christianity isn’t sufficiently monotheistic. (You know: the father, the son, the whole confusing trinity…) So she flies to Cairo to teach English after college, falls in love with the first Egyptian man she meets, then converts, marries, and dons a headscarf before telling her mother and father. (Parents, are you ready to cancel that foreign-study check now?) But while the 28-year-old G. Willow Wilson may not be a foreign-policy expert, the part-time Seattle resident makes a virtue of her sincerity. And she’s honest about her spiritual yearnings colliding with the hot, dusty reality of often hostile Cairo. She learns when it’s acceptable to haggle in the souk, the codes of making eye contact in the street, and how to deflect local outrage over uncouth Western tourists (no air-kisses, please). Her book is generous toward all parties, though godless Seattle readers may still be troubled by Islamic attitudes toward women. As Wilson herself notes, with ambivalence, “The more cherished a woman is, the more inaccessible she is made.” BRIAN MILLER

Tue., June 15, 7 p.m., 2010

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