The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Deborah Baker’s The Convert Tells the Story of an American Woman’s Love for Islam”
Tricia Springstubb / May 17, 2011
In this book, Baker poses urgent questions about how America and the world’s Muslims sometimes become “each other’s evil caricatures.” She explores whether the current enmity is fueled more by history or metaphysics. Like Maryam, she believes that American self-interest in the Middle East contributed to corrupt governments and the rise of radicalism. Unlike Maryam, she deplores the fringe of Islam that judges a woman’s success as fidelity to her husband, that condemns art and that celebrates suicide bombers. Further twining her own life with her subject’s, Baker received Maryam’s consent to condense the letters. She retains their earnest, highly articulate voice, along with their undercurrent of emotional distress. Cutting back and forth between Margaret/Maryam’s two perplexing lives, Baker gives us a miserable, privileged woman whose argument with her home was so strong that hers became one of the most trenchant voices of Islam’s argument with the West.
In this superb biography, Baker makes it an argument worth our attention.