Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A Woman is No Man

 I very rarely have that feeling when I finish a book and I am like THAT is going to be one of the best books I’ve read this year.  I mean I read quite a bit and have gotten better at not finishing books that I don’t really like or just aren’t the right fit for the moment. (Side note, I think I am going to have like 9 or more books that I started and didn't finish by year's end).  However, I finished A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum last night and wow.  I immediately wanted to discuss it with someone and so I did the next best thing and read all the questions people had about it on goodreads and thought more about it.

I remember seeing the cover of this book before but I hadn’t really read the blurb until a friend read it this summer so I added it to my library holds and just got around to it.  I am glad that even though I am a few years late to loving this book, I already was able to reserve her newest book, Evil Eye, from the library.

A Woman is No Man is narrated back and forth by women of different generations in the same family.  Isra, Fareeda, and Deya share how their culture is ingrained in everything they learn about themselves and what their role in the world is.  They are all Palestinian and the book starts with Isra marrying Adam in an arranged marriage and facing a move to America with people she doesn’t know.  She tries talking to her mother about the unfairness of it and her mother tells her that is her life.

Isra hopes for a better life in America but learns that not much has changed.  Her belly is full, her housing and finances are better but are her choices any better here than at home?

Fareeda is her overbearing strict mother-in-law that has much the same outlook as Isra’s mother did.  A woman is no man.  Life is not fair.  You are to raise children and keep the home.  

Deya is Isra’s daughter and her part of the book happens when she is 18 and her grandmother is trying to marry her off in an arranged marriage in 2008.   Deya who grew up in Brooklyn, does not want to get married at 18.  She wants to go to college.  She wants to fall in love on her own.  

All of this is sooo not doing this book justice and it is so much more.  But Etaf Rum writes so beautifully and in my deep dive last night I learned that it is semi-autobiographical to her upbringing in Brooklyn.

I read something she said in an interview and it stuck with me.  I am very much paraphrasing but she said she was raised by traumatized people and that their trauma seeped into her from how they parented and she had to go to therapy and work through that trauma to help her change and make the life she wanted to make.  


Have you read A Woman is No Man? What were your thoughts?

Description: This debut novel by a Palestinian-American voice takes us inside the lives of a conservative Arab family living in America. In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.

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