Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book club meeting

So my book club, Daughters of Abraham, met last night to discuss Leila Aboulela's wonderful novel, The Translator, and it was a great discussion. We always have great discussions though- our group is composed of a lively and intelligent group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish women, and we always have a good time laughing and learning about each other.

I was particularly pleased this month because for the first time since I joined, I really enjoyed the month's selection and we had all three faiths represented. For some reason for the past couple of months there's been a dearth of Muslim participants as folks have been off traveling or just busy, but not so last night- which was good, considering The Translator is a "Muslim" book, so they could share the benefit of their insights and point of view.

From my own point of view it was a lovely, literary love story about a woman struggling to incorporate herself into the world while keeping her faith intact; I was also happy to learn that the Muslim women felt like it was a very sensitive and realistic portrayal of Islam. Some women felt that the last "Muslim" book we read, Samarkand, did not portray a dogmatically-correct version of Muslim life; personally I just found it dull and although I don't demand rigid adherence to dogma in my reading I do understand the point of view that if you're there to learn about Islam, you might as well read something that teaches you about it. On the other hand, if you're there to learn about people, which is also a valid reason to be in an interfaith book club, and you agree that people aren't robots who always behave in rigidly dogmatic fashion, it might be okay to read about characters who don't always behave in rigidly dogmatic fashion. So there are different ways to look at it.

Me? I fall somewhere in between. I'd like to learn about correct religious practices through the various selections, but I know I don't adhere particularly rigidly to the demands of my religion, and I don't really expect others to either. It's great to learn about the diversity of practice and belief that's out there, to see how different people wear their faith out into the world and make it work in their own lives- because that's what we all have to figure out how to do.