HQ December 12th 2019
Three generations of Palestine – American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this heart wrenching story of love, intrigue and courage.
Palestine, 1990. Seventeen – year old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children – four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.
Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man.
But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family – knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future.
Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is a story of culture and honour, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.
First, huge thanks to HQ Stories for inviting me to be involved in this blog tour and sending me a finished copy of the book for review. This book sounded interesting when I read the description hence I volunteered for the blog tour, but largely I felt unsure what to expect, and for me that is one of the incredible bonuses of having the opportunity to read books in this way, I can read books I otherwise possibly wouldn’t pick up, and in the case of A Woman is no Man, I am so glad I did!
Told from the perspectives of three generations of women, Fareeda, Isra and Deya and spanning a time period from 1990 to 2008, the time from when Isra at 17 moves to Brooklyn to live with her new husband and his family, in a marriage arranged by the parents. All three women are Palestinian, although Deya was born and raised in Brooklyn. Highlighting the roles of women within the Palestinian community, this book was both sad and enlightening, but despite its very serious subject matter the writing was engaging and very accessible.
With themes of domestic violence / honour based violence and oppression this really highlights the plight of women, in Palestine but also straddling two cultures in America and all the conflicts this can bring. The book did not shy away from any of these issues and the story was strong and terribly sad. For me the writing detailed starkly how difficult it can be for women to have choices and any power to change things, limited in language and knowledge, fearful of change and perpetuating a cycle of oppression. Isolated in an unfamiliar country the risks felt insurmountable and I was struck how stuck women can be and how vulnerable. The losses associated with forcing change or going against the wishes of the family were explored and the impact on all family members.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it feels like an incredibly important read, it is a work of fiction and is accessible and would appeal widely, but is thought provoking and hard to put down.
About the Author
Etaf Rum was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by Palestinian immigrants. She teaches college English literature in North Carolina, where she lives with her two children.
A Woman Is No Man is her first novel.
This is a blog tour so check out what others are saying about this remarkable book. Details below.