A Woman Is No Man

A Woman Is No Man is one of those rare books that you physically feel. It is a sensitive, compelling, honest, and heart-wrenching novel about oppression, silence, and courage.

She often wondered how many people felt this way, spellbound by words, wishing to be tucked inside a book and forgotten there. How many people were hoping to find their story inside, desperate to understand.

— Etaf Rum

Synopsis:

Isra is only a teenager when she is forced to enter into an arranged marriage and move from Palestine to the United States. In Brooklyn, living with her husband’s conservative family, she struggles with her role as a wife and mother within the confines of an oppressive culture. Now, her 18-year-old daughter Deya sits with suitors at her grandparent’s insistence, despite her repeated pleas to go to college instead of marry. Raised to believe her parents died in a car accident when she was young, Deya finds inconsistencies in her memories of her mother, and yearns for understanding. When she receives a mysterious note from a familiar stranger, she begins to question her choices for the future, as well as the reality of her past.

A real choice doesn’t have conditions. A real choice is free.

— Etaf Rum

Review:

This book. Oh, this beautiful, simple, searing, and fierce book.

A Woman Is No Man is one of those rare books that you physically feel – the weight in your bones, the ache in your chest. It’s a book that you don’t want to keep reading, for the heaviness and the pain. At the same time, it’s a book that you absolutely keep turning the pages – slowly to absorb all of the nuances and details, but quickly to see what happens to these women you so easily have come to love.

Etaf Rum is brilliant at her craft. She welcomes us into this story and into their home, sharing all the inner workings and dynamics of a conservative Arab-American community. It’s such a personal story, in the rich descriptions of their food and clothes, their routines and beliefs. Many of the women in the story love to read, find solace and truth in reading, and yet have to read in secret. That was such an interesting facet of their personalities, and spoke volumes to their loneliness and desire to be more than they’re allowed to be.

The narrative mostly bounces between Deya in the present, and her mother Isra in the past, with a few chapters interspersed from Fareeda (Isra’s mother-in-law, Deya’s grandmother). Through the eyes of these three women, we get an intimate glimpse of the role of women in this conservative, patriarchal society. We see the burden and consequence of silence, the cycle of shame and repression, and the courage it takes to speak out and be resilient.

The shame of her gender was engraved on her bones.

— Etaf Rum

A Woman Is No Man is a sensitive, compelling, honest, and heart-wrenching novel about oppression, silence, and courage. There are dozens of beautiful quotes that I feel in my bones and the many pieces of my heart. Too many quotes to share here, but a nudge to you to go discover them for yourself.

Read this book. Honor women. Find the courage to speak out.

TRIGGER WARNING: Major themes of domestic abuse.

*Here is a link to a beautiful interview with Etaf Rum, by LitHub*

Too often being happy means being passive or playing it safe. There’s no skill required in happiness, no strength of character, nothing extraordinary. It’s discontent that drives creation the most–passion, desire, defiance. Revolutions don’t come from a place of happiness. If anything, I think it’s sadness, or discontent at least, that’s at the root of everything beautiful.

— Etaf Rum

A Woman Is No Man
by Etaf Rum
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Harper

Summary

A Woman Is No Man is a sensitive, compelling, honest, and heart-wrenching novel about the oppression, silence, and courage of women. If you read nothing else this year, READ THIS BOOK. Honor women. Find the courage to speak out.

— Cassie
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