Standing near the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. Kelly O

HAS PUBLISHED:

A memoir about converting to Islam and an Orwellian novel.

HAS ALSO WRITTEN:

Comics about Superman, a flight attendant who learns about an air-travel-related conspiracy, and a stolen hookah.

IS WORKING ON:

A new, "more reflective" novel that is "a fantasy, but with classy elements... classy in the most derogatory way."

G. Willow Wilson constructs beautiful bridges. She documented her conversion to Islam as a young white American woman in her memoir The Butterfly Mosque. Her celebrated debut novel, Alif the Unseen, combines Orwellian politics with urban fantasy in a Middle Eastern culture. Wilson maintains a strong fan base in Muslim and Middle Eastern communities while still attracting and impressing Americans who learned everything they know about Islam from Fox News.

Earlier this year, the first issue of a superhero comic cocreated and written by Wilson, Ms. Marvel, was published under an onslaught of media coverage. Wilson brought a Pakistani American Muslim teenage girl superhero named Kamala Khan to the traditionally white superhero world of Marvel Comics, but the thing that surprised all the usual haters was that Ms. Marvel is a really good superhero comic that uses the history of the medium to its advantage—Spider-Man, the X-Men, and all the rest were outcasts when they were created, and who, in today's America, is more of an outcast than a nerdy daughter of Muslim immigrants? Isn't the teen angst in this panel something everyone can identify with?



The way the character has been embraced is heartwarming—thousands of girls and women of all ages, races, and religions wear homemade Ms. Marvel costumes at comic conventions, or pose for photographs with the cover of the comic on social media. They finally have a superhero of their very own.

Wilson talks about a reading she gave for Alif at a "conservative mainline Sunni mosque," where a transgender woman showed up. Wilson is proud of her "extraordinarily diverse audience," but she'd never had this diverse an audience meet in one place before. She made a decision: "If they try to kick her out, I'm going to argue. And if they still kick her out, I'm going to leave. I can't have it so my readers don't feel safe around each other." Happily, her concern was for nothing: "What happened was this weird, cool, very-21st-century conglomeration of readers from incredibly different backgrounds were all in that same room because of me. Everyone was very respectful, everybody was really nice to each other." Wilson still sounds relieved to this day: "I don't expect people to agree, but the respect is nice, and when you can get there, that's pretty cool." recommended