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We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  530 ratings  ·  109 reviews
How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist?

Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Viking
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An amazing memoir. Habib recounts her childhood as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where her family had to hide to stay safe in the face of Islamic extremists and then how this pattern of hiding combined with sexism and homophobia followed her to Canada, where she felt forced to hide her femininity and queerness. Beautiful thoughts about art, activism, spirituality, and more. Passages about her finding her people, other queer Muslims, made me cry.

I think my only quibble is I wanted a little bit
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Samra Habib, artist and activist, did not want to sacrifice her identity as a Muslim when she came out. This is her story of her journey and how she found community. I found it uplifting!
And this is memoir 7 of my Non-fiction November reading project for 2019.
I have been a fan of Samra Habib's work since a few years back. I think I first stumbled upon her writing in The Guardian and later found myself on tumblr looking at her photo projects. So you can say that I went into this with a little bias and curiosity to know more about her, her work and why she ended up writing a memoir. I've had this book on my to-read list since I first heard it was coming out in 2017. So I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy on Netgalley and I think I'll get a ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samra Habib's memoir is beautifully written, sometimes raw. She describes her family, and the many rules in place to police a young Pakistani woman in Pakistan. These rules become even more important to her parents when they settle in Canada. (The parental and societal restrictions felt very, uncomfortably familiar.) Her double life of trying to please everyone but herself was difficult to listen to; the moment she finally came out to her mother had me crying for the immediate, unexpected ...more
Meena Khan
Apr 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very misleading if you are interested in learning about Islam. Please don't use this book as your reference point. For example, when the writer describes the differences between Shia and Sunni muslims, she does it in a haste without any real, religious knowledge. That whole account sounds fake and comes across as if it was just inserted as a way to use Islam to promote the book. Why talk about Shia Muslims if she does not know anything about their teachings? It was very offensive ...more
I was beyond excited when I found out I'd won a paperback copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I love reading memoirs, and We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir was certainly no exception. I couldn't put it down and finished it in just a few hours. Highly recommended.

While I can't personally relate to the experiences of being a Muslim or a refugee, and have never had to confront the fear of ending an arranged marriage, I could relate to a lot of other things: living in Toronto as
3.5 stars overall, although the first third of the book is considerably stronger, fresher, and more interesting than the rest.
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
While I enjoyed learning about Ms. Habib and would love to see her photography, I would not say this book was much of an exploration as stated in the summary. For despite being presented as a memoir, I felt it was much more of an objective stating of the facts of Ms. Habib's life and generalized information about difficulties in the Pakistan and Muslim cultures, I did not feel like I finished this book knowing Ms. Habib. While this disconnect might be due to her need to protect herself, it does ...more
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
4.5 STARS - This is an honest and revealing coming-of-age memoir of a queer Muslim woman's struggle with identity, faith and family. Beginning with her childhood as a young Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan and continuing into her adult life as a successful photojournalist in Toronto, Habib describes how her experiences, beliefs and relationships shaped the woman she has become.

After her family moves to Canada to flee religious persecution, she struggles to claim her identity as a strong and successful
Miss Susan
a memoir written with the style and narrative verve of a novel. i only meant to read the first chapter of this before going to bed but whoops, what do you know, somehow i tripped and ended up staying awake to finish the whole thing. i think my favourite part was her evolving relationship with her parents -- it was good to see them bring themselves to a healthier place. 4 stars
Khashayar Mohammadi
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: august-2019, giveaway
I won a copy of the memoir in Goodreads giveaway. My review is my own opinion.

With so many bad things happening in our world, we need more books like this one. Stories of personal courage necessary in order to find the happiness you want in life.

Samra’s story is incredibly powerful & inspiring. She made mistakes, but she is not afraid to admit them. She found her way to heal & is brining healing to others. Her acceptance of others is heart warming and I would venture a guess that it
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
There were moments during this book that I felt a little bit nervous (like any time the author mentioned trans people), but overall this was a beautiful portrayal of self-discovery. I have read a lot about queer Christians, but to read about the author's relationship with Islam forced me to confront my attitudes towards organized religion in a way I hadn't before.
That said, it also confuses me that there was a lot of time spent on the struggles of poverty, but it seems to me that once Habib was
Rebecca McPhedran
"Being surrounded by great people isn't a fluke. It's almost like solving a math problem, finding variables, adding and subtracting to figure out a formula that works. Being surrounded by people who fuel you is intentional."

Samra Habib has always been searching for home. A safe space where she can be unabashedly herself. Her parents were forced to leave Pakistan when she was young, and thus begins Samra's search for home; and belonging. She was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 16.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I managed to misinterpret the description of this to such an extent that I spent the first half of the book wondering when the author was going to start talking about queerness. But her narrative of her experiences growing up Ahmadi (a religious minority) in Lahore, then fleeing the country to settle as a refugee with her family in Toronto, and trying to navigate being a Muslim immigrant Pakistani girl -- dealing with school bullies, getting into an arranged religious marriage and then a divorce ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
/5! - I’m the first to admit that 9 times out of 10, I’ll choose fiction over nonfiction Memoirs can be tricky but I fell in love with this one! I was initially drawn to the cover (I mean, come on) but i enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would so if there’s ever a time to judge a book by its cover - thisisit!

Habib’s story is captivating and important - I think everyone (regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation) can learn a lot from it! Trust me, it’s short but powerful! Habib
Shawn Sorensen
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book to read as a parent. I actually connected so deeply to the parents, as they navigated how to make their children feel supported for who they are. They make the mistakes I don’t want to make. It’s a powerful and impactful memoir, and I’m glad it was written.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This was a totally engrossing memoir.

Great on audiobook, I polished it off in two listens. Samra Habib is someone I'd love to have coffee with. I love the nuance and thoughtfulness with which she reflects on her own experiences, and her relationships with her parents, Islam, Pakistan, and Canada/the Canadian dream.

It's just a really well-told story. I felt like I inhabited the many scenes of her life right along with her from Lahore to her family's small apartment in Toronto to Tokyo to North
Hamza Jahanzeb
Samra Habib provide an honest, raw and gripping account of her life from Pakistan, escaping the clutches of religious intolerance, into a new world in Canada where she and her family sought refuge. It is brilliantly told, with an absolute clear narrative that reads like it's being told to you by a nearby friend. The way in which Habib reflects on the earlier years in her life, provide for great insight into what life was like being the Ahmadi Muslin in an intolerant Pakistan. Her relationships, ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a valuable book, and while I liked it I wished that it went deeper. I feel like there's so much about the author I don't know. Maybe she wrote as much as she was able to at this time.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to take some time to process my thoughts on this book. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes and all thoughts expressed in this review are my own.

This book left me in tears. Like, all out sobbing tears. I’m so glad that this memoir was written. I have gained a new perspective on what being a queer Muslim looks like. I truly believe in representation and own voices literature because it provides a way to bring everyone to the table and allows those marginalized
“Our understanding of the interior lives of those who are not like us is contingent on their ability to articulate themselves in a language we know. The further removed people are from proficiency in that language, the less likely they are to be understood as complex individuals. The audience often fills in the blanks with their own preconceptions.” (175)

Although marketed as a queer Muslim memoir, it takes awhile to get there. It’s also a memoir of seeking asylum, a story of self-discovery, and

Disclaimer: I no longer feel comfortable to rate stars on the accounts of true stories/memoirs. It feels like an unfair judgement. Thank you for net galley and publisher for allowing to an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Honestly when I first started the book, I thought it will be the one you read gradually, that it will take me some time to get through but to my surprise, it was the opposite. I had forgotten most of the blurb by the time I picked it up and found that it began in
Carlee Beatty
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was both fantastic and an emotional read for me. I teach at a majority Muslim school, and have seen a wide variety of approaches through which the Islamic community views the queer community. I have seen and read some of my students being openly homophobic and transphobic, others being quietly but firmly accepting and loving. Still yet, I have had Muslim students come out to me, sometimes loudly and proudly, but sometimes in hushed whispers or written down hidden in the corner of an ...more
Theodor Östervall
I don’t usually write much (if anything) in my reviews. This book, however, deserves that I take a moment to reflect on it.
First of all, I read this book in two days. The writing is excellent and keeps you reading, one sentence flowing effortlessly into the next.
Secondly, I learnt so much from this book. I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know about Islam, Pakistan, immigrants and queer people of colour and all the various subgroups within those identities. Every page contained a new part of
I positively inhaled this. It is high time everyone realised that queer Muslims exist.

I saw so much of myself in Samra though we are from a different culture and faith tradition - I took about twenty screenshots of quotes which give expression to my own experiences I struggle to describe. I was also a bit teary when I read I am not the only one to have adopted my own lesbian mums.

This is an important addition to queer memoir/literature which tends to be predominantly male, white, and non-
Amanda B
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The further removed people are from proficiency in that language, the less likely they are to be understood as complex individuals.

We have always been here, it’s just that the world wasn’t ready for us yet. Today, with all the political upheavals in the Muslim world, some of us, those who are not daily threatened with death or rejection, have to speak for others. They have to tell stories of a community that is either denied or scorned. Together, through facing distinct realities, we should be
Sami Eerola
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very moving and inspiring tale of a Muslim girl that finds feminism and then the courage to assert her true identity as a queer Muslim.

This is not just a autobiography, but a great book about balancing conflicting identities and loyalties. How to protect your Muslim family from racism and at the same time fight for the rights of the LGBTQ-Muslims inside the Muslim community and outside of it.
Derek Lynch
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was great! Habib’s story is remarkable and I’m glad I read it. There are several scenes that really stand out to me. Her language is perfect; memories are constructed beautifully & in a way that makes the whole memoir a quick read. Samra Habib has incredible things to say and I hope I get to read more of her works.
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