“The Beauty of Discovery” By Michael Wolfe

Here is a book that will fill your ears with a chorus of voices you may never have heard so clearly. What I love about this carefully introduced, large collection of testimonial essays is its variety, its unsettledness, its openness, its range.

One the one hand, readers who know little about Islam and its history will be surprised by the very idea of Hispanic-rooted converts to Islam. They should get ready for some reminders: that Spanish is full of Arabic words, that the architectural resemblances between Mexico, say, and the Middle East are not accidental, that Spain, the social, cultural and intellectual pearl of medieval Europe, was full of Muslims from Mecca, Damascus, and Morocco for at least eight centuries, that large numbers of Roman Catholic and secular people now living in Spain and its far-flung New World ex-colonies may, if they like, trace their lines back to Muslim families of centuries ago— and that Jesus has always played an essential role in Islamic theology and Muslim life.

On the other hand, Muslims who know all these things may be surprised by Juan Galvan’s book too, because the voices here don’t pull punches or smooth over the problematic aspects of taking up a new religion by choice. Our Journeys is a collection of actual, living human voices reveling in the beauty of discovery but also grappling with the stresses and strains of a decision that may easily confuse neighbors and even, perhaps especially, close relations. Get ready for the sort of wild ride that only truth-tellers take you on. Sometimes religion can get in the way of truth-telling. Not in this case.

Praise by Michael Wolfe, the author of “The Hadj: An American’s Pilgrimage to Mecca.”

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