Where I come from, we’ve learned to conceal our condition. We’ve been taught to silence ourselves, that our silence will save us. It is only now, many years later, that I know this to be false. Only now, as I write this story, do I feel my voice coming.
On her knees on the floor, she could barely breathe. Blood leaked from her nose and down her chin. But she wiped her face and told herself she would take a beating every night if it meant standing up for her girls.
This is a heartbreaking story of three generations of Palestinian-American women in one family who have been oppressed by their culture and are trying to find a voice in their world dominated by men. There’s nothing bright about this except the cover. It is dark and depressing and doesn’t get any lighter.
A Woman Is No Man is about three women. First is Isra. Born in Palestine, she marries in her teens and moves to New York. Her POV focuses on the challenges of living in the home of her inlaws, where she faces abuse and very harsh sexism.
The second is Deya, Isra’s daughter, who is being pressured to marry rather than go to college. A mysterious figure from the past forces her to reconsider her family history.
The third is Fareeda, Isra’s mother-in-law, who, in many ways, represents an older generation of women who accept what they’re given and yet hold the family together despite every crisis.
This book is character-driven with beautiful prose. The plot is not nearly as important as the story these women tell about themselves.
A Woman is No Man is an expertly penned novel that explores immigration, religion, culture, gender roles, and personal freedom. Etaf Rum delves deep into the trauma of being born a female in a family that devalues women and strips them of choice while putting abusive men on a pedestal. It also examines women’s role in perpetuating stereotypes and upholding a system that oppresses them.
I definitely recommend it!