The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism PDF/EPUB ·

The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism PDF/EPUB · Ultimately, The Convert was unsatisfying to me because it seemed like the big reveal was Maryam Margaret Peggy is crazy Maryam Jameelah born Margaret Marcus, Peggy to her family is an American Jewish woman raised on Long Island who converted to Islam and moved to Pakistan in the early 1960s, when she was in her late 20s The book is structured around Maryam s conversion, her struggles with fitting in or not in both Long Island and Pakistan and the possibility of her mental illness Told Ultimately, The Convert was unsatisfying to me because it seemed like the big reveal was Maryam Margaret Peggy is crazy Maryam Jameelah born Margaret Marcus, Peggy to her family is an American Jewish woman raised on Long Island who converted to Islam and moved to Pakistan in the early 1960s, when she was in her late 20s The book is structured around Maryam s conversion, her struggles with fitting in or not in both Long Island and Pakistan and the possibility of her mental illness Told through reconstructions edits of Maryam s letters edited by the author and the author s investigative journalism, the book reveals after we read through a bunch of very articulate letters from Maryam that Maryam has spent time in a mental institution, in both New York and Pakistan Surprise People with mental illnesses can be good writers with logical trains of thought In both of the cultural contexts Maryam lived in, she was an outcast in the U.S she was seen as freakishly modest and sexually frigid a la her Freudian psychoanalysts , in Pakistan she was too bold and outspoken In both places, her quite to anger temper was a defining feature of her interactions with other people I would have liked to readabout sexism in both of these contexts and how the mental institution solution was not necessarily about Maryam herself.Throughout the book, the author alternates between using the names Maryam, Margaret, and Peggy, as if to underscore her crazy I mean, really, what kind of woman uses three names Only a crazy one There are lots of interesting things about this book, but I think the author could ve gone deeper in interrogating the ways in which mental illness has been used against Maryam throughout her life I use the word crazy throughout this review to capture the dismissive way in which mental illness is treated in our culture It s not a word I condone the use of, because it frequently is used to delegitimize a person s experiences and ideas about the world This is an excellent read, somewhat of a mystery too A detective story The book is gripping and really heats up towards the end It is fascinating history unearthed, and gives one an apercu into a radically different way of viewing the world I have argued with many friends over the causes of 9 11 Many say the problem is just unequal economic development, that if those countries just had a better economy, they wouldn t feel inclined to oppose or harm our way of life I personally feel that th This is an excellent read, somewhat of a mystery too A detective story The book is gripping and really heats up towards the end It is fascinating history unearthed, and gives one an apercu into a radically different way of viewing the world I have argued with many friends over the causes of 9 11 Many say the problem is just unequal economic development, that if those countries just had a better economy, they wouldn t feel inclined to oppose or harm our way of life I personally feel that the US has collectively brushed away this question of why in an act of collective amnesia or post traumatic inability to revisit the root causes of 9 11 Why exactly did they attack the city where I lived The common viewpoint is that they were just a bunch of crazies, a few bad apples.This book illuminates much of that It is even handed, including views critical of Israel s role in the Middle East along with the self delusion and obliviousness to facts, or call it sheer ignorance, of many fundamentalists You will learn lots about the early rise of fundamentalism, just as one could in the book The Looming Tower Except that book focusedon Sayd Qutb and on Egypt, whereas this book is about Pakistan.I have come to see our paradigm ofiphones and stores open 24 7, as inadequate Many other peoples do feel the need for something , for a respect for family and a for a place forprofound communal values in the body politic Of course they hardly respect other faiths But then in a way, economics rules all in the west, so we don t value faith and certain non material values either, at least at a federal level Some people just want to opt out The convert was one of them But unlike its subtitle I am not sure it is a tale of extremism, in fact I wonder if the publisher added that to sell the book Would her life have ended upgratifying to her had she stayed in the States And if as the book implies, it would not, then are we not the extremists A book guaranteed to be thought provoking Wow,what a fascinating subject This book tells the story of a Jewish American woman Peggy Marcus who converted to Islam when she was 27,became Maryam Jameelah and left her comfy life in America and began a new one in Pakistan,she did this to live as a true Muslim as per her account.The author Deborah Baker found archives marked as Maryam Jameelah on 4 boxes in NYPL archives,she was intrigued as this was the only Muslim name among may Christian and Jewish ones,she studied these 4 boxes,found coun Wow,what a fascinating subject This book tells the story of a Jewish American woman Peggy Marcus who converted to Islam when she was 27,became Maryam Jameelah and left her comfy life in America and began a new one in Pakistan,she did this to live as a true Muslim as per her account.The author Deborah Baker found archives marked as Maryam Jameelah on 4 boxes in NYPL archives,she was intrigued as this was the only Muslim name among may Christian and Jewish ones,she studied these 4 boxes,found countless letters Jameelah wrote to her parents about her life in Pakistan,also very harsh on western materialism and telling how Muslim world as large has fell prey as a whole to this materialism and only getting back to their Islamic roots will liberate Muslims from the western evil s grips Her manner is very grandiose,she was adopted by a very hardline Muslim in Pakistan named Mawlana Maududi a founder of Jammat E Islami party in Pakistan who believed in restoring Sharia as a law for all of Pakistan,actually didn t want Pakistan the Muslim nation at 1st as he thought British should restore the Muslim kingdom whe they left on all of the India undivided and Muslim should rule over Hindus as they did for like 800 years b4 the English came This was so insulting for some 1 who s from India like me The subjugation of Indian Hindus by Islam is a horror story of rape and conversions by sword,a very violent shameful chapter i Indian history Thank g d these evil people left my country with the creation of Pakistan Peggy Maryam as it turns out was diagnosed a Schizophrenic And was institutionalized in America for this She tells about this in her letters to her parents as well,again his Pakistani family also made her institutionalized in Pakistan Even they couldn t tolerate her nosiness in their lives What s very strange is,even if she s a schizophrenic,her books and words are considered as authentic on the subject of Islamic rejection of the West and she is considered a best selling author in the Muslim world I mean come on She s a schizophrenic,means her brain is not in touch of the reality around us,that s both tragic and comic too,tragic for her works being seen as authentic and basis of Islamic rejection and many times baseless hatred of the West Comic for the same reason as she s some 1 not being in touch with the reality yet she s accepted as some1 authentic on such a broad subject impacting Billion lives The format of the book is very interesting as Deborah Baker has published her letters almost as they were,its mostly in this format of Jameelah s letters and Deborah had to edit them a little to make some sense of them I loved the subject,the book and I chose to read it as I wanted to understand a Schizophrenic mind,how a grandiose paranoid mind thinks,it was an excellent study on it The book didn t let me down 5 Stars This is the sad story of Margaret Marcus, an American of Jewish descent who fixates on Islam She connives a sponsorship to live in Pakistan with Malwana Abdul Ala Mawdudi, an advocate of fundamentalist Islam and an active advocate for the Jamaati Islami Party Taking the name of Maryam Jameelam, she becomes a recognized writer and advocate for conservative Islamic values and jihad and remains in Pakistan for over 40 years Author Deborah Baker stumbles upon her letters in the New York Public Li This is the sad story of Margaret Marcus, an American of Jewish descent who fixates on Islam She connives a sponsorship to live in Pakistan with Malwana Abdul Ala Mawdudi, an advocate of fundamentalist Islam and an active advocate for the Jamaati Islami Party Taking the name of Maryam Jameelam, she becomes a recognized writer and advocate for conservative Islamic values and jihad and remains in Pakistan for over 40 years Author Deborah Baker stumbles upon her letters in the New York Public Library and follows her life, eventually meeting her in Pakistan.This is not a conventional biography It strays from the story of Margaret Marcus to the story of the author tracking Margaret Marcus It has snippets of information on Jamaati philosophy and 1950 s psychiatry The chronology is not linear, which is confusing in the first initial part of the book For instance, the mental health issue is brought up in the course of Maryam s second hospitalization, but that diagnosed schizophrenia informs everything to that point We learn at the end, that the letters upon which a lot of the story is based, are not just bogus ramblings of Maryam, but appear here in an edited fashion.Besides the weaknesses above, the book is incomplete There are no pictures If the strict Islamic code makes photos of Maryam and her family unavailable, there could be pictures of pamphlets, manuscripts or facades of homes, institutions or streetscapes There should be at least one interview of one of Maryam s four surviving children.I had high expectations since this is a National Book Award nominee for 2011 I don t see how this one is placed above books like Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman, The Woman Who Could Not Forget Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking A Memoir, Liberty s Exiles American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, or From Splendor to Revolution The Romanov Women, 1847 1928, all of which, I expect will stand in their field as definitive for years to come A very unusual biographical style, weaving the subject s letters over many years into the first person narrative of the author Well worth the time I invested, and probably very important as I move ahead in the process of articulating my own informed version of recent history and the interaction of Islam and the West as well as that of religion and secularism in general Maryam Jameelah, the biography s subject, is fascinating, at times elusive, and probably crazy It doesn t show at first, bu A very unusual biographical style, weaving the subject s letters over many years into the first person narrative of the author Well worth the time I invested, and probably very important as I move ahead in the process of articulating my own informed version of recent history and the interaction of Islam and the West as well as that of religion and secularism in general Maryam Jameelah, the biography s subject, is fascinating, at times elusive, and probably crazy It doesn t show at first, but as the narrative unfolds in such a controlled way that I would almost say it s contrived, not to mention manipulated our sympathies shift inevitably from Maryam, originally portrayed as the misunderstood, maligned, courageous religious heroine This surely mirrors the disillusionment that gradually registered with the biographer as she put the pieces of her research together A great read, gripping and informative, and giving a good amount of important background history beginning mainly with the independence and partitioning of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 presented in a clear and pleasantly objective manner Was this even really a biography I m not sure At the end, I m not sure at all of what is true and what is made up whether it is the subject or the author speaking Disjointed, and then at the end the author confesses to essentially manipulating the letters and changing what she wanted I m unsure whether this was a story of an ultimate loner with no place in a regimented society, or a story of an essentially untreated mental illness, or something else altogether Confusing. Given that I knew nothing about the subject of the book before I read it, I can still say that I know very little about her.The book was well written and very readable and it did help explain a little bit about why radical extremism in Islam exists I found the history of Pakistan very interesting and the search for the utopian government of Islam.But, I was really hoping to see what would cause a culturally Jewish girl from suburban NY to convert to Islam and move to Pakistan in the early 1960s Given that I knew nothing about the subject of the book before I read it, I can still say that I know very little about her.The book was well written and very readable and it did help explain a little bit about why radical extremism in Islam exists I found the history of Pakistan very interesting and the search for the utopian government of Islam.But, I was really hoping to see what would cause a culturally Jewish girl from suburban NY to convert to Islam and move to Pakistan in the early 1960s and from that angle the book didn t really deliver The subject matter of The Convert is absolutely fascinating What causes someone to convert to Islam Better yet, what causes a young woman to convert to Islam and then move to Pakistan Unfortunately, Deborah Baker never truly answers these questions, and the execution of the subject matter falls flat.While Ms Baker uses Maryam s own correspondence, she admits to rewriting it or changing it to help the flow of her story This, to me, fictionalizes the story and makes the entire conceptdi The subject matter of The Convert is absolutely fascinating What causes someone to convert to Islam Better yet, what causes a young woman to convert to Islam and then move to Pakistan Unfortunately, Deborah Baker never truly answers these questions, and the execution of the subject matter falls flat.While Ms Baker uses Maryam s own correspondence, she admits to rewriting it or changing it to help the flow of her story This, to me, fictionalizes the story and makes the entire conceptdifficult to accept Maryam never fully explains why she converted or why she felt compelled to become one of the most vitriolic, outspoken anti American correspondents Yet she admitted to withholding the truth in letters to her parents Combine that with the alterations by Ms Baker, and the reader quickly loses the sense of authenticity and truth that symbolizes a quality biography Ms Baker does her best to make Maryam as sympathetic a person as possible, but here too she fails in her attempts Maryam is utterly unsympathetic in her demeanor and righteousness Her inability to even consider a world where the two cultures Muslim versus any other could coexist is simply unfathomable and rather scary With her stints in various mental hospitals, one gets the impression that Maryam was a very miserable woman, and she put the blame for her existence on the United States It is a difficult attitude to comprehend, but the fact that Ms Baker is unable to truly explain it makes it worse.While I was anxious to read The Convert, get a better understanding of the Muslim culture and understand what would prompt a woman to convert, I was ultimately left with as many questions with which I started Maryam s words, not matter how altered, left a bitter aftertaste, and I was horrified at her inflexibility and intractability She justified her behavior and attitudes with a sense of morality that was uncompromising and harsh The Convert is the type of novel that removes any sense of hope that the two cultures will ever be able to get along, which, given the unending nature of the conflicts in the Middle East, is not the right message for this day and age.Thank you to Graywolf Press for my reading copy A spellbinding story of renunciation, conversion, and radicalism I found this book very informative and thought provoking and also very relevant to our current geopolitical situation, as it is about an American Jewish woman who disavows both her American citizenship and her Jewishness, converts to Islam and moves to Pakistan Oh, and she does this in the 1960s, and along the way, writes a series of tracts and essays that help form the ideological underpinnings of the modern jihadi movement Yeah, an American woman s writings helped inspire the 9 11 terrorists I found this book very informative and thought provoking and also very relevant to our current geopolitical situation, as it is about an American Jewish woman who disavows both her American citizenship and her Jewishness, converts to Islam and moves to Pakistan Oh, and she does this in the 1960s, and along the way, writes a series of tracts and essays that help form the ideological underpinnings of the modern jihadi movement Yeah, an American woman s writings helped inspire the 9 11 terrorists Let that marinade for a while.But the book goes beyond that and explores questions of what it means to count oneself among the religious faithful and what it meant to be a woman in 1950s American and also in Pakistan, but along the way turns into somethingthan that, like an exploration of the field of biography, the way biographers contrive theories and ideas about their subjects using source materials that might also be contrived, and how even the most voluminous collection of letters and essays can only give exposure to the tiniest slivers of a person s real identity.This was a quick read and I d recommend it for anyone with an interest in these things As to why I didn t give it four starsI m still trying to put my finger on exactly why I liked but didn t love it But still, a good book

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