Book Announcement: The Faith Club - A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew—Three Women Search for Understanding
“In the wake of 9/11, Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, sought out fellow mothers of the Jewish and Christian faiths to write a children’s book on the commonalities among their respective traditions. In their first meeting, however, the women realized they would have to address their differences first. Oliver, an Episcopalian who was raised Catholic, irked Warner, a Jewish woman and children’s author, with her description of the Crucifixion story, which sounded too much like “Jews killed Jesus” for Warner’s taste. Idliby’s efforts to join in on the usual “Judeo-Christian” debate tap into a sense of alienation she already feels in the larger Muslim community, where she is unable to find a progressive mosque that reflects her non–veil-wearing, spiritual Islam. The ladies come to call their group a “faith club” and, over time, midwife each other into stronger belief in their own respective religions. More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religion nonfiction book. From Idliby’s graphic defense of the Palestinian cause, Oliver’s vacillations between faith and doubt, and Warner’s struggles to acknowledge God’s existence, almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride. (Oct. 3)” Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Ranya Idliby is a Palestinian Muslim; Suzanne Oliver, an ex—Catholic now in the Episcopal Church; and Priscilla Warner, Jewish. Initially, the idea behind establishing a faith club was simple—the three women would collaborate on an interfaith children’s book emphasizing the connections among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that would reinforce the common heritage the three religions share. In post-9/11 America, however, real life began getting in the way. Almost from the start, differences that culminated in conflict emerged; at one point, the tension even jeopardized the project altogether. Prophetically, while searching for a story to help illustrate connections among the religions, Suzanne chose the Crucifixion, which immediately set off alarm bells for Priscilla. Yet they persevered. All three agreed that to work together they had to be brutally candid, “no matter how rude or politically incorrect.” Eventually—and as they make abundantly clear, not easily—conflict and anger gave way to a special kind of rapprochement that merged mutual understanding and respect. Each woman brings to the table her prejudices, unique faith stories, and personal stereotypes and misconceptions (Priscilla, for example, had those of one who had never before met a Palestinian woman). Brimming with passion and conviction, and concluding with suggestions for starting a similar faith club, this is essential reading for anyone interested in interfaith dialogue. June Sawyers from Booklist
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“Millions of Americans crave a way to have interfaith conversation but have no idea where to begin. This book is a great place to start. The Faith Club is unfailingly honest, always engaging, and even suspenseful. The authors have set a path that many more will want to follow. I raced to the end to see how it all turned out. Hurrah!”—Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible and Where God Was Born
“I loved The Faith Club because it provides hope for mothers of all backgrounds that it is indeed possible to create dialogue among us in a post-9/11 world. The book is a brilliant blueprint for creating peace among diverse people everywhere. And if there’s one thing about The Faith Club I have faith in, it’s that it will catch fire among women’s groups and book clubs across America.”—Donna Dees-Thomases, author of Looking for a Few Good Moms and founder of the Million Mom March
“Violent conflict, painful contradiction, and heated controversy make up the headlines on religion today. But a deeper story is unfolding as well: Three contemporary women—Jew, Christian, and Muslim—search together across the divides of prejudice and fear. Their honesty becomes a path to connection; their courage leads into the ranges of the heart opened by their own religions. Working together, they each arrive where alone they could not go. Read this important book.”—Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General, World Conference of Religions for Peace
“This book is the real thing: three tough, strong women take on each other’s religious differences. Achieving a true sisterhood in faith that crosses the religious traditions, these sassy moms will knock you out.”—Asma Gull Hasan, author of Why I Am a Muslim and American Muslims: The New Generation
“Three mothers’ engaging account of their interfaith dialogue. . . . The three charming narrators transform potentially dry theological discourses into personal, intimate heart-to-hearts. . . . An invitation to discussion that’s hard to turn down—and a natural for book groups.”—Kirkus
“More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religion non-fiction book . . . almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride.”—Publishers Weekly
“Welcome to the Faith Club. We’re three mothers from three faiths—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism—who got together to write a picture book for our children that would highlight the connections between our religions. But no sooner had we started talking about our beliefs and how to explain them to our children than our differences led to misunderstandings. Our project nearly fell apart.”
After September 11th, Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, faced constant questions about Islam, God, and death from her children, the only Muslims in their classrooms. Inspired by a story about Muhammad, Ranya reached out to two other mothers—a Christian and a Jew—to try to understand and answer these questions for her children. After just a few meetings, however, it became clear that the women themselves needed an honest and open environment where they could admit—and discuss—their concerns, stereotypes, and misunderstandings about one another. After hours of soul-searching about the issues that divided them, Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla grew close enough to discover and explore what united them.
The Faith Club is a memoir of spiritual reflections in three voices that will make readers feel as if they are eavesdropping on the authors’ private conversations, provocative discussions, and often controversial opinions and conclusions. The authors wrestle with the issues of anti-Semitism, prejudice against Muslims, and preconceptions of Christians at a time when fundamentalists dominate the public face of Christianity. They write beautifully and affectingly of their families, their losses and grief, their fears and hopes for themselves and their loved ones. And as the authors reveal their deepest beliefs, readers watch the blossoming of a profound interfaith friendship and the birth of a new way of relating to others.
In a final chapter, they provide detailed advice on how to start a faith club: the questions to ask, the books to read, and most important, the open-minded attitude to maintain in order to come through the experience with an enriched personal faith and understanding of others.
Pioneering, timely, and deeply thoughtful, The Faith Club’s caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.
For more information or to start your own faith club visit http://www.thefaithclub.com
About the Authors:
Ranya Idliby was raised in Dubai and McLean, Virginia. She holds a bachelor of science from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and earned her MS in international relations from the London School of Economics. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
Suzanne Oliver was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and has worked as a writer and editor at Forbes and Financial World magazines. She graduated from Texas Christian University and lives in New York City and Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire, with her husband and three children.
Priscilla Warner grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where she began her interfaith education at a Hebrew day school and then a Quaker high school. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked as an art director at various advertising agencies in Boston and New York. She lives with her family in a suburb of New York City.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Free Press (October 3, 2006)
Faith Club website http://www.thefaithclub.com/
Available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Club-Muslim-Christian-Understanding/dp/074329047X