A Woman Is No Man : A Novel

by Etaf Rum

Rating: 5 (7 votes)

Tags: Female author

A Woman Is No Man

Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this powerful debut—a heart-wrenching story of love, intrigue, courage, and betrayal that will resonate with women from all backgrounds, giving voice to the silenced and agency to the oppressed. "Where I come from, we’ve learned to silence ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence will save us. Where I come from, we keep these stories to ourselves. To tell them to the outside world is unheard of—dangerous, the ultimate shame.” 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 with 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 honor, 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.


Read Around The World Challenge user profile avatar for Kimberly
(5 months ago)
24 Dec, 2023
I found this novel very intriguing because it’s from a perspective that I just haven’t hear from much before. This book definitely taught me about a part of the Islamic culture with the arranged marriages and gender roles. A Woman Is No Man really does explore multicultural identities, universal themes of loss, displacement, and transformation. Deya is Arab American but was born in New York and Etaf beautifully shows how the character’s two cultures are entwined and also vastly different. And Etaf also wrote the challenges of Isra’s character as she had to move from Palestine to New York City with little knowledge of her new home country. 5/5 stars

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