An intimately diaristic travelogue, a stirring personal inquiry, and a captivating, meticulously researched history ... With its vibrant love of place, its deep concern with archives and histories—particularly colonial ones—and its thrill in the pleasure of language, this new book is of a piece with her stories ... She model[s] what it might look like to respectfully enter others’ stories ... The result is a book that resembles nothing so much as a magpie’s nest: that impressive mess of assorted twigs that is in fact most intricately made. In the end Samatar abandoned any precise formula for moving neatly into and out of others’ stories. Instead she built something far more alive: this extravagance of branches and threads and gleaming details, bursting with the kind of treasures yielded only by boundless curiosity.
Contributes to an important body of literature that speaks to the global conditions forged by US imperialism rather than from the perspective of a given 'ethnic background' ... It is an astonishing story ... Another author might have written a polite book that begins with the historical context of 19th-century Central Asia and progresses gradually toward her own story as the child of a Mennonite mother and Muslim father, but that is not what Samatar does. She has little patience for totalizing narratives that allow author and reader to remain at a safe distance ... What makes The White Mosque an important book, however, is that its eclecticism and intellectual restlessness are fine-tuned for the purposes of cultural intervention.
Sturdy and accessible ... Samatar cracks a few jokes of her own, to be sure, alert to private foibles and cultural mash-ups. By and large, though, White Mosque sustains a rare seriousness, in keeping with a story about seeking transcendence, rising above differences of race and culture ... Much more than [an] assiduous and eloquent history.
She excels in inviting readers to experience life through others’ eyes: placing readers alongside her for the journey, with highly descriptive writing Samatar details everything from food preparations, to the next stop on her trip, to a vision of what life was like long ago in their village. Past and present are almost interchangeable here, and while it can seem disconcerting when the author suddenly leaps between them, it is ultimately an effective illustration of how the past shapes the present and why history matters.
Fascinating ... Evocative ... Emerging from this is a vivid mosaic that interrogates the spirit of the faithful while celebrating the beauty of storytelling. This riveting meditation on the 'great tides of history' yields a wondrous take on the ways the past and present intertwine.