MixedThe Wall Street Journal... an intriguing alternative to the Runciman narrative ... a breathtaking, often bewildering chronicle of incessant conflict with adversity ... so hectic and disastrous that the narrative sometimes teeters on dark farce...It’s not the author’s fault: She’s impeccably true to the reality of the time and place ... seems more suited for a small-screen series than a single-volume book, with its busy succession of Baldwins and Bohemonds, amorous interludes, relentless action and dashing roles for supreme divas.
Marc David Baer
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Baer...organizes his material according to contemporary concerns such as minorities, women and sexual mores, thereby eking out surprisingly fresh insights from this hitherto well-plowed terrain. He doesn’t ignore chronology, but his structuring principle is to reset the conventional narrative ... Mr. Baer doesn’t stint on such glaring complications to his diversity-prioritizing approach. By book’s end, his narrative becomes a de facto illustration of the painful downsides of identity politics ... Eventually, religious and ethnic minorities helped persecute one another en masse as the empire fell behind in the late 19th century, beset with poverty, rebellions, weak sultans and recurrent lawlessness ... Until Moscow launched its pogrom-genocides, Turks and Armenians had lived together in relative harmony for many centuries in eastern Anatolia. But Mr. Baer doesn’t blame Moscow for the consequences—a surprising flaw in a history that is otherwise highly readable, original and thorough.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[A] fascinating, occasionally exasperating and almost infallibly instructive read ... Praying to the West is certainly a testament to his journalistic acumen, full of well-chosen and vividly rendered stories. The book is a peripatetic illustration of how many people, often scattered and marginal, practice Islam in the Americas. It’s when he is chronicling the plight of these people that Mr. Mouallem is at his best ... But Mr. Mouallem is also determined to present Muslims in the West as a victimized minority, a narrative that doesn’t always fit the picture he describes and shortchanges the factual complexity of his subject. Careful readers will notice the contradictions ... The author does not shy away from the ugly facts. He is, at bottom, an instinctively honest reporter ... he often and pointedly refrains from passing judgment in any conclusive way.