A Woman Is No Man: A Novel
by Etaf Rum
Hardcover- $15.65


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A ...

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/21/19

  "" by Ljwagoner (see profile) 04/24/19

This is a very well written story that opens a window to see in and begin to understand the lives of women and how our specific cultures impact out lives. It’s a story about how power to have a choice is a daily struggle. Trigger warning for domestic violence #botm

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/30/19

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/16/19

All of us loved it & made for a great discussion!

  "a woman is no man" by Carolynr (see profile) 09/05/19

I have to say that after reading this book, what was just as interesting was reading a lot of the reviews , both positive and not so positive. I appreciated the constructively negative comments and gave me pause for some thought. however I still liked this book. I did not feel like I was reading a YA book as some felt. However the ending left me hanging a bit. Worth the read I think , if only to make your own decision about it.

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  "" by Djbg1 (see profile) 02/02/20

Loved this book. It stuck with me a long time.

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  "Great story" by LSakay (see profile) 04/15/20

This was an amazing story of the strength and struggle of women; their culture, their history, their skewed expectations of self. A Woman is No Man speaks specifically to the strife of Palestinian woman but can easily be adapted to similar challenges encountered by other ethnicities as well. Deya's story of moving to the United States expecting change and "freedom", details the strong, cultural bind that extends the reach of locale and continue to burden and suppress countless amounts of women today. Violence, isolation, and fear are all clearly aspects of domestic violence but often cleverly veiled as orthodox, religious/cultural tenets in many homes. Rum gives us a personalized view into Deya's strife and ambivalence, Isra's despair and wary hope, Sarah's introspection, and Fareeda's placidity and resignation. She also manages to highlight the lesser, but still challenging, burdens religious/familial/cultural expectations place on men's lives as well. It was so good. I was on vacation and eagerly awaited returning to the hotel each night for the opportunity to continue reading and learning more about "What she gonna do?" even though I struggled emotionally as I read more about the eternal, daily imprisonment these women just happened to be born into...simply because they were female. Talk about rooting for the underdog, with a very heavy, underlying and pertinent theme.

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/20/20

Gut wrenching.

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  "The plight of the Palestinian female immigrant is the highlight!." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 12/07/20

A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Rum, author; Ariana Delawari, Dahlia Salem, Susan Nezami, narrators
This is a heartbreaking novel about Palestinian immigrants who have fled to America from Displaced Person Camps or Refugee Camps after they lost their homes to the Israelis when they occupied their land. The reason for the occupation and seizure of the land is never discussed. The opening statement, “I was born without a voice”, is meant to shock the reader, and it does. The story is narrated by Deya, and as she tells the story of the immigrant struggles through the plight of her mother and her family, she reveals her own difficulties and the trials of all those in her immigrant culture, all those who never feel they quite belong but long desperately to fit in and be accepted. Their hardscrabble lives that often go nowhere because of the inability of the culture to modernize, is evident. They are strangers in a strange land with a strange language and customs diametrically opposed to their own, especially those customs concerning women, for Muslim women are often treated like chattel, with the men in their lives expecting absolute obedience from them, even resorting to beating them into submission if they don’t comply. Murder is not out of the question either, for a recalcitrant female. Often the feminine culture in the home is governed by superstition and ignorance. The story begins in Palestine in 1990 and ends in Brooklyn in 2009.
Arab women of Muslim backgrounds, are brought up to believe that they are nothing more than housekeepers, cooks, mothers and servants satisfying their husband’s every need. They have no need of education and certainly have no dreams or hopes of a life other than one of servitude. Should they question their position or rebel, the consequences would be severe, but modern men, those more Americanized, reject such extreme expectations of their women and allow them more freedoms. Some women are allowed to pursue education and careers. Those that adhere to the hardline ways of old, however, seem to do so because of archaic beliefs that disobeying the old rules brings dishonor and shame to the family as neighbors and friends shun them and humiliate them.
When Isre was seventeen, although she did not want to marry, and truly wanted an education, her family arranged her marriage to a stranger. Her husband, Adam, took her out of Palestine to live with him in America and she was forced to abandon her family. It was expected and natural for a female to give up her own family when she married. She could not return. Adam and Isre resided in the basement of his parent’s home. It was dark and unlike the openness and brightness of her home in the place she called Palestine. The home was in Brooklyn where many other Palestinian immigrants had chosen to live. All Isre desired was to be loved and to be happy. She did her best to please her husband, frightened and lonely though she was, and soon became pregnant with their first child. Unfortunately, she turned out to be a female, followed by four more. Fareeda, Adam’s mother showed her displeasure. She was disgraced because her son could not produce a male heir to carry on the family name and to help support the parents and siblings later in life. With daughter’s in law, the work of the mother was eased, but with a son, the family was guaranteed some kind of financial security. She shamefully belittled Isre. She was often arrogant and cruel. She knew no better way to behave. She was a product of the old world.
Deya. Isre’s eldest daughter, is telling this story. She like her mother, wanted more out of life, but unlike her mother, she was determined to pursue her dreams. She lived in a time of greater freedom for women, a time of greater educational opportunity and acceptance of women in the workplace, but still the old customs of her Islamic background held her back and made her fearful of defying her grandparents who were raising her according to strict Islamic laws. Her aunt Sarah, Fareeda’s only daughter, became Deya’s mentor. She had unsuccessfully attempted to influence Deya’s mother, Isre.
The message of the book is manifold. It is about customs that cripple a population of immigrants with superstition, it is about civil rights for all and equal justice, it is about relationships and respect for one another, it is about the tragedy of a strict Islamic culture that supports honor killings and other barbaric behaviors, it is about the futility of putting reputation above all, rather than love and respect for each other, it is about helping each other, not abusing each other, it is about the hardscrabble lives of the immigrant and their effort to survive in a new country, it is about the difficulty of keeping their Islamic culture alive, while also forgiving the abuses of another culture that made them leave their home in the first place. It is about accepting some modern ways, about moving on to enjoy life and not continuing to nurture their resentment about the past. It is about dealing with and facing the future.
The message illuminates the difficulty of maintaining their Islamic culture which is diametrically opposed to some of America’s ways, especially regarding women. It concentrates on the abuse they witness, the hardships they face, and the illiteracy that Muslim women deal with when it comes to what they can expect from life in America and in their religious life. Should they expect more freedom? Will they attain it?
Although the book is not anti-Semitic per se, because it blames Israel for the plight of these suffering families, without an explanation for their expulsion from Palestine, its few harsh comments expressing anger and frustration about Israel’s behavior were so glaring and unfair, it made it impossible for me to give the book five stars. Singularly blaming only the Jewish Homeland for a conflict that has been ongoing for decades was unfair. There is plenty of blame to go around.

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