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What it is: Carla Power was already a journalist on Islamic culture and politics but realized she wanted to know more about the Koran proper and the spirituality behind the religion. So she spent a year with an Islamic scholar, Mohammad Akram Nadwi- following him, reading the Koran with him, attending his lectures, etc. Nadwi has written biographies of thousands of women, which leads to fascinating discussions of women's roles in the religion.
Why you should read it: What you think you know about women in Islam, what you've been told about women in Islam, what you want to believe, etc., will really be shaken up by reading this book, and Power is right there with you thinking this through. She takes a no-nonsense, honest-with-herself approach, which is welcome.
My "aha" moment: Nadwi's feelings about hijab, which actually means barrier, or separation, are beautiful. The idea of covering oneself in simple, modest clothing (men included) before God, is lovely. It's not the misogynist "elbows are too sexy and distracting" of Orthodox Jews (my people), and something that gets totally lost in the discussions of who should be able (secular countries) or required (Muslim countries) to wear hijab or burka.
Rating: Library. I'll be honest, I didn't love the writing. But this book really made me think, and showed me a huge hole in my knowledge.