For March 2012, our Online Book Club continues by discussing The Butterfly Mosque by Willow Wilson, another featured title of this year's community reading program, Silicon Valley Reads, which focuses on the theme "Muslim and American."
Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its ideas. We hope you will participate in the discussion by leaving comments below!
For Week 4, we'd like to ask: After reading about Willow's experience living in Egypt, how has your perception of life in the United States changed or deepened? Have any personal trips abroad had a similar effect on you?
Reading about Willow's life in Cairo, it really hit me how fortunate we are in the United States to have relatively clean environments in which to live. Dealing with our air pollution is one thing, but I'm not sure how long I would last breathing in smelly dust from desert dirt. And I'd gladly risk pesticides and preservatives over having to dodge maggot-infested fruit and contaminated meat.
I also was struck by Willow's surreal experience with Patriot Act survelliance in the Denver airport. Of course, she still has no idea what really happened - that trenchcoat-wearing man who snapped her photo could have just been an ordinary guy who wanted a picture of an odd white woman in a hijab. But clearly survelliance was going on - as evidenced by the experience of her friends who were questioned. I guess I'd hope the authorities would've concluded much earlier that she didn't pose a threat. It's scary that this could happen to you for so long without any obvious signs and then that innocent people would continue to have their lives inconvenienced by their own government.
Finally, I could relate to the embarassment she felt in the taxi when the other American girls launched into a loud, sexually-explicit, conversation. In my first trip overseas, I was intent on experiencing life in another country on its own terms and not my own. Unfortunately, I had to share this experience with other American college students who were only interested in getting drunk on a daily basis and made no attempt to modify their behavior to fit their new environment.
What about you? How has your perception of life in the United States changed or deepened after reading the book? Have personal trips abroad had a similar effect on you?