Monday, September 11, 2017

By Sara Nelson

The University of Iowa College of Education continues its commitment to building a strong community across difference.

In the second edition of the Building Community Reads Initiative, the  College of Education has selected The Butterfly Mosque, by G. Willow Wilson, to allow individuals to come together in community to get to know one another, explore perspectives, and engage in dialogue.

The Building Community Reads Initiative is co-chaired by Will Coghill-Behrends, director of the Baker Teacher Leader Center, and Sherry Watt, professor in education policy and leadership. The initiative began in 2016, and was inspired by College of Education faculty, who discovered that book groups were effective and positive ways to bring people together. Last year’s book, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, was chosen because of the timeliness of the book’s message, with conversations about race and privilege taking place across the world.

“I believe that literature can change the way people live and act in the world, and research supports that,” says Renita Schmidt, associate professor specializing in language, literacy and culture.

This year’s book, The Butterfly Mosque, centers on G. Willow Wilson’s extraordinary story of converting to Islam and falling in love with an Egyptian man in a post-9/11 world. The memoir was chosen to align with Hancher’s Embracing Complexity Project, and the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights “One Community, One Book” program, which aims to promote human rights education through reading and group discussion.

“This story is a beautiful love story that is filled with information about the Muslim religion and culture,” says Schmidt. “I hope it helps everyone who reads it have a better understanding of humanity.”

An intimate question and answer session with G. Willow Wilson will be held on Monday, Oct. 9th,  from 11 a.m. to noon in the Jones Commons at the UI College of Education.

 Students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the College of Education can participate in this year’s Building Community Reads. Books are available at the front desk in the Baker Teacher Leader Center in N110 Lindquist Center. Both hard copy and e-books are available. Several book discussion dates, and activities that align with the themes presented in the book are available on the Building Community Initiative’s website.