Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking book about Americans searching for faith and mutual respect, The Faith Club
weaves the story of three women, their three religions, and their urgent quest to understand one another.
After September 11, Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, faced constant questions about Islam, God, and death from her children, the only Muslims in their classrooms. Inspired by a story about Muhammad, Ranya reached out to two other mothers to write an interfaith children's book that would highlight the connections between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. After just a few meetings, however, the women realized that they themselves needed an honest and open environment where they could admit -- and discuss -- their concerns, stereotypes, and misunderstandings. After hours of soul-searching about the issues that divided them, Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla grew close enough to discover and explore what united them.
A memoir of spiritual reflections in three voices, The Faith Club has spawned interfaith discussion groups in churches, temples, mosques, and other community settings. It will make you feel as if you are eavesdropping on the authors' private thoughts, provocative discussions, and often-controversial opinions and conclusions.
As the authors reveal their deepest beliefs, you watch the blossoming of a profound interfaith friendship and the birth of a new way of relating to others. And this new edition provides all the materials you need for forming your own Faith Club, including sections in Hebrew and Arabic.
Pioneering, timely, deeply thoughtful, and full of hope, The Faith Club's caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.
"Millions of Americans crave a way to have interfaith conversation but have no idea where to begin. This book is a great place to start. The authors have set a path that many more will want to follow." -- Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible and Where God Was Born
"More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religion nonfiction book...almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride." -- Publishers Weekly
"I loved The Faith Club because it provides hope for mothers of all backgrounds that it is indeed possible to create dialogue among us in a post-9/11 world. The book is a brilliant blueprint for creating peace among diverse people everywhere. And if there's one thing about The Faith Club I have faith in, it's that it will catch fire among women's groups and book clubs across America." -- Donna Dees-Thomases, author of Looking for a Few Good Moms and founder of the Million Mom March
"Violent conflict, painful contradiction, and heated controversy make up the headlines on religion today. But a deeper story is unfolding as well: Three contemporary women -- Jew, Christian, and Muslim -- search together across the divides of prejudice and fear. Their honesty becomes a path to connection; their courage leads into the ranges of the heart opened by their own religions. Working together, they each arrive where alone they could not go. Read this important book." -- Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General, World Conference of Religions for Peace
"This book is the real thing: three tough, strong women take on each other's religious differences. Achieving a true sisterhood in faith that crosses the religious traditions, these sassy moms will knock you out." -- Asma Gull Hasan, author of Why I Am a Muslim and American Muslims: The New Generation
"Three mothers' engaging account of their interfaith dialogue. . . . The three charming narrators transform potentially dry theological discourses into personal, intimate heart-to-hearts. . . . An invitation to discussion that's hard to turn down -- and a natural for book groups." -- Kirkus
A groundbreaking book about Americans searching for faith and mutual respect, The Faith Club weaves the story of three women, their three religions, and their urgent quest to understand one another.
When an American Muslim woman befriends two other mothers, one Jewish and one Christian, they decide to educate their children about their respective religions. None of them guessed their regular meetings would provide life-changing answers and form bonds that would forever alter their struggles with prejudice, fear, and anger. Personal, powerful, and compelling, The Faith Club forces readers to face the tough questions about their own religions.
Pioneering, timely, deeply thoughtful, and full of hope, The Faith Club’s caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.
About the Author
Ranya Idliby was raised in Dubai and McLean, Virginia. She holds a bachelor of science from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and earned her MS in international relations from the London School of Economics. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.Suzanne Oliver was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and has worked as a writer and editor at Forbes and Financial World magazines. She graduated from Texas Christian University and lives in New York City and Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire, with her husband and three children.Priscilla Warner grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where she began her interfaith education at a Hebrew day school and then a Quaker high school. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked as an art director at various advertising agencies in Boston and New York. She lives with her family in a suburb of New York City.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE In the Beginning
CHAPTER TWO A Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew Walk into a Room . . .
CHAPTER THREE The Abrahamic Family Feud
CHAPTER FOUR The Crucifixion Crisis
CHAPTER FIVE Stop Stereotyping Me!
CHAPTER SIX Could You Convert?
CHAPTER SEVEN Oh, Where Are You, God?
CHAPTER EIGHT Ranya's Madrassah
CHAPTER NINE The Promised Land
CHAPTER TEN Prayer
CHAPTER ELEVEN Rituals
CHAPTER TWELVE Intimations of Mortality
CHAPTER THIRTEEN Conversations with a Priest, an Imam, and a Rabbi
CHAPTER FOURTEEN A Day of Atonement
CHAPTER FIFTEEN Happy Holidays
CHAPTER SIXTEEN Facing Our Communities
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Awakenings
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Faltering Faith
CHAPTER NINETEEN From Here to Eternity
How to Start a Faith Club
More Faith Club Questions
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
The Faith Club was started when Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, recruited Suzanne Oliver, a Christian, and Priscilla Warner, a Jew, to write a children's book about their three religions. As the women's meetings began, it became clear that they had their own adult struggles with faith and religion, and they needed a safe haven where they could air their concerns, admit their ignorance, and explore their own faiths.
Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla began to meet regularly to discuss their religious backgrounds and beliefs and to ask each other tough questions. As the three women met and talked, there were no awkward silences -- no stretches of time with nothing for them to say to each other. Honesty was the first rule of the Faith Club, and with that tenet as a foundation, no topic was off limits.
With courage, pain, and sometimes tears, Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla found themselves completely transformed by their experience inside the safe cocoon of the Faith Club, and they realized that they had learned things so powerful they wanted to share them with the rest of the world. This is their story.
- How did the book's format (a three-way memoir written in first person) contribute to the overall feel of the book? At what points did the women write different versions of the same event? (One specific example can be found when Ranya confronts Priscilla about the Israel/Palestinian conflict, pages 129-138.) How does each woman's individual prejudices and religion color her interpretations of the discussions?
- How does each woman's role as a mother influence the direction and tone of the Faith Club? Would the club have been different if it included both mothers and women with no children? How did the children play a role in the challenges to each woman's faith?
- To which woman did you most relate, and why? Was it the one you expected to when you began the book? If you identified with one of the women because you share her religious beliefs, did you agree with her presentation of your faith? What did you disagree with, and why?
- Much of the first half of the book deals with Suzanne's and Priscilla's struggles to define anti-Semitism and to confront their prejudices about the other's faith. Did you feel that Ranya was unfairly relegated to the role of "mediator" (p. 46), or did she welcome it? "For months, I had to bide my time patiently" (p. 126). Why do you think Ranya waited to bring up her own struggles with Suzanne's and Priscilla's faiths?
- On page 106, Ranya says, "The more that science unravels about the wonders of life and the universe, the more I am in awe of it." Do you think this combination of science and faith is realistic, or must one ultimately take precedence over the other?
- Suzanne's first sentence speaks of the "cozy, homogeneous community" at her Episcopal church. What is Priscilla's "comfort zone"? What is Ranya's? How does each woman step out of her individual cozy and homogeneous comfort zone, and in what ways does each of them remain there?
- On page 147, Priscilla wonders if worrying is "a form of gratefulness." What do you think she means by this? Does Priscilla's worry ultimately strengthen her faith? How does each woman show gratitude in her life and in her faith?
- On page 204, Craig Townsend tells Suzanne, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, it's certainty." What does he mean by this? Is doubt necessary for true faith?
- In Chapter 12, "Intimations of Mortality," the women discuss their differing views about death and the afterlife. Which understanding of death was most comforting to you? Which image of the afterlife was most comforting? Are they from the same religion?
- When Priscilla confronts Suzanne about her confession that she was uncomfortable being mistaken for a Jew, Ranya says, "She wouldn't want to be a Muslim either." Do you agree? Why or why not? Is Suzanne's discomfort an inevitable result of being a member of the majority, of "not [being] forced to accommodate [herself] to the culture, religion, or even friendship of minorities"?
- Ranya provides a vivid description of her own method of prayer on page 175: "My prayer is essentially a form of meditation in which I singularly apply my limited human physical capacity to try to connect with that omnipresent universal unknown force: God." (Suzanne's description of her prayer is on page 162; Priscilla's is on page 175.) How is each woman's method of prayer different? How is it similar? How do Suzanne's, Ranya's, and Priscilla's prayer styles reflect the differences and similarities in their childhoods?
- Before the meeting, visit the authors' website, www.thefaithclub.com, to explore viewpoints about your own and others' faiths. Use the Faith Club Guide in the back of the book to suggest journaling topics; have each member select a topic and bring in questions and reflections to share with the group.
- During the meeting, serve some of the food that Priscilla, Ranya, and Suzanne served at many of their Faith Club meetings. For example, you could serve hot chocolate and jasmine tea to your guests. And don't forget Priscilla's favorite -- a variety of chocolate bars for a special treat!
- An important aspect of the authors' Faith Club is their visits to each other's places of worship. Schedule a weekend visit to your local mosque, synagogue, and church. If you can, set up a discussion with the imam, rabbi, or priest.