The Convert: A Parable of Islam and America

Deborah Baker, Author
Deborah Baker, Graywolf, $23 (256p) ISBN 978-1-55597-582-1
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-55597-028-4
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-55597-627-9
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4640-2268-5
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Pulitzer finalist Baker (A Blue Hand) unravels the often contradictory life of an American woman who became one of the pre-eminent voices of Islamic revivalism, in this stellar biography that doubles as a mediation on the fraught relationship between America and the Muslim world. Margaret Marcus was a secular Jew in Mamaroneck, N.Y., before she became fascinated with Islam and moved to Pakistan in 1962 and took the name Maryam Jameelah. Baker, who discovered the archive of Marcus's papers in the New York Public Library, carefully reconstructs her movements after her arrival in Lahore, Pakistan, using letters Marcus sent to her parents and articles she published in various Islamic magazines. Jameelah's criticism of the West is unwavering: she denounces American foreign policy, particularly its support of Israel, and secularism in general, insisting that law be derived from the Qur'an. As Baker digs deeper into her subject's difficult life—Jameelah's time in Pakistan grew increasingly strained—she ponders the effect Jameelah's writings on global jihad may have on today's al-Qaeda and Taliban. This is a cogent, thought-provoking look at a radical life and its rippling consequences. (May)
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