Three generations of women weigh family duty and desire in a conservative Palestinian community in Brooklyn.
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Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
Before I tell you about this book, I have to tell you a little about its author. Etaf Rum is one of the most thoughtful, dedicated #bookstagrammers in the game. For a few years now, she’s been sharing great literature on her Instagram feed, @booksandbeans, and tirelessly advocating for up-and-coming authors. When I found out she was writing a book of her own, I was pleased for her. And when I read it and found it to be really, really good, I was completely elated.
A Woman Is No Man is a dual story of two women tied by blood. Isra is a young mother who finds herself in an abusive arranged marriage far from her home country, Palestine. Years later, Deya, her daughter, is a teenager growing up in modern-day Brooklyn. Though their upbringings differ, Deya finds herself facing the same life her mother, who died under murky circumstances, was forced to endure: an arranged marriage to a stranger and a life devoid of her own ambitions.
This is one of those family sagas you’ll read in one sitting without coming up for air. Between navigating the conservative forces swirling within their households and upholding the family’s honor, Isra and Deya struggle to stay true to themselves—and Rum’s portrayal of their feats and flaws is masterful. A Woman Is No Man is a revelation. I’m thrilled to join the chorus of readers shouting this book to the rafters.
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.
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Springfield , MO
This is my favorite book of 2019 so far. I couldn’t put it down. I chose it because it’s about a culture I know nothing about, and I’m glad I read it. I can’t stop thinking about it. Go get this book!
Shelby Twp, MI
I knew I loved this book when I constantly thought about it. I kept thinking “Rum, you need to make it better, you need to fix this anger I’m feeling!” It’s truly a powerful book that makes you feel.
Colorado Springs, CO
I haven’t connected to a book the way I connect to ‘A Woman is No Man’ since I was in middle school. It’s been weeks since I finished it, and I’m still in that Brooklyn basement with Deya and Isra.
This book is remarkable. I read it alonside “Untamed” & was amazed by the similarities. Rum’s book is the novel version of Doyle’s- the story of women learning to think, speak, & live for themselves!
I loved this book! I got so lost in it that I can’t stop thinking about it. I have this longing to check on the characters & find out how they are doing. I’m searching for more voices like Etaf Rum’s.
A Woman Is No Man.. couldn’t be more of an accurate title. It captivated me. It’s been so long since a book mesmerized me this much. I couldn’t stop reading. Every page and every story was enthralling
A well-crafted, rich, textured, and mature analysis of the deeply ingrained cycle of harm that afflicts all cultures with the concept of “honour”/“shame” (not just Palestinians/Muslims as in this).
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - This book is brilliant. The strength and resilience of three generations of women. This story will stay with me for awhile. Absolutely loved it. My top rated BOTM to date.
This book is heartbreaking in how it’s like watching Titanic and hoping the ship misses iceberg. You know not everyone is going to get their happy ending, but its a beautiful book I couldn’t put down.
New York , NY
I’m having a hard time writing about this book because I’m still processing it. It was the book that took me the longest to read, but also one of the best books I’ve read recently. Highly recommend.
I read this book in 2 days, that’s how good it is. I couldn’t put it down. What an honest depiction of cultural expectations and the struggle to deviate from the norm. Powerful, heartbreaking, honest.
New Windsor , NY
Absolutely wow. Couldn’t put this read down. It’s amazing how cultures parallel but to different extremes & dynamics. Women everywhere seem to be at the bottom of the totem pole & suffer because of it
I absolutely DEVOURED this book. I loved following each woman’s story, and I felt both empowered and humbled throughout. I thought the ending could’ve been stronger, but it still filled me with hope!
Albany , OR
I won’t forget about this book for a long, long time. (Maybe ever?) I couldn’t put it down because I was so invested in the characters lives!! Heart wrenching. Eye opening. Amazing writing. Read it!
Sturgeon Bay, WI
Very few books can pull me in the way “A Woman is No Man” did. I stayed up reading, could not put it down if I tried. I loved how the story goes between times and characters, keeps you on the edge.
Etaf Rum rips down the curtain and shines the spotlight on cultural misogyny right here on an American stage. I'm grateful for her courage to write this debut novel. It is sure to be a top book of 2019!
The Dalles , OR
This book is so eye opening. I have already been suggesting it to all my book peeps! It is one that will stick with me for a long time. I’m confused as to why it didn’t receive 2019 BOTY. SO GOOD!!
Pa Furnace , PA
I’m in love, an amazing book. It really touches on a really hard topic of men and women in other cultures that from the outside you may not see. I love that it really immerses you into another world.
Everything about this book, from the story to the setting to the characters was beautifully written. It’s a tragic story that reveals real feministic issues still occurring today, behind closed doors.
This book focuses on the Arab culture and how it’s lived differently between generations. It was a hard read as I found a lot of the information to be very sad and frustrating. The writing is perfect.