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We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  12,556 ratings  ·  1,489 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
Kindle Edition, 220 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Viking
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Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Swiftly recounts the photographer-writer's youth in Pakistan, coming of age in Canada, and quest to come to terms with her sexuality on her own terms as a queer Muslim. The writing's solid but feels surface level once the focus shifts to her adulthood, two thirds of the way into the memoir; she glosses over stretches of her life and doesn't much sketch the personalities of those close to her. Worth checking out, but surprising that this beat out Jaquira Díaz's Ordinary Girls and Saidiya Hartman' ...more
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir is the winner of 2020 Canada reads battling in Canada’s battle of the books for the title of the one book the country should read.

I have to admit I live in a Canadian bubble and my own tiny seduced bubble. I had the impression that things are okay here in Canada, but after the events that took place recently, I have come to realize it’s time for me to step out of that bubble and challenge my thoughts and assumptions. So I decided to start with wh
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 mo
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 rounded up


On the one hand, this is a compelling coming of age memoir about holding multiple conflicting identities and negotiating them into one's self. Habib, a Pakistani Canadian takes us from growing up in a relatively conservative Muslim family, being in an arranged marriage and coming to terms that these were things she did not want. She quickly breaks from these constraints and discovers a sexual identity she did not realize was there. She must renegotiate her
Meena Khan
Apr 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
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 to ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it
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
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.
Saajid Hosein
Jun 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a really well written and thought provoking memoir. I felt such a deep emotional connection to Samra's experience. ...more
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 co ...more
When I asked Zainab what advice she would give to young queer Muslims who are looking for support and community, her response gave me chills. I still turn to her words for motivation:

“We have always been here, it's just that the world wasn't ready for us yet. Today, with all the political upheaval 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. Toge
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-2020, mar-20
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib is a Canada Reads 2020 finalist.
A meaningful and beautifully written account of the author's courage and perseverance to find happiness as an immigrant in Canada. Her story is incredibly inspiring!
Her need for acceptance and her acceptance of others is heart warming. She made mistakes along the way and is not afraid to admit them.
A coming of age memoir that describes in great detail her struggle with identity, faith and family.
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
With incredible resolve, Samra Habib ably navigates leaving her troubled Pakistan, complies with an arranged marriage, immigrates to Canada, and discovers her own queer identity. Despite all that she has endured from such a young age, she still has space in her heart for understanding and grace. And even the capacity to build something from her own experiences.

It is an important book that offers representation for those struggling to define their own identity within the confines of their faith a
Holly | The Caffeinated Reader
This is an amazing memoir that I cannot recommend enough.

Author Samra Habib recounts their experience growing up as a queer Muslim. First in Pakistan, where she faced religious persecution from those who didn't agree with her version of her faith, and then in Canada, where Habib is confronted with not only an arranged marriage, but the realisation of their own queerness.

Something that I absolutely loved about this memoir was the importance Habib places on representation, because as Habib states
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 accept ...more
As a young girl in Pakistan, Samra Habib faced discrimination because her family belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which is deemed heretical by many other Muslims. When she was a teenager in Canada, Habib faced discrimination for being a refugee, a Muslim, and a South Asian woman. All of these experiences, together with an upbringing by deeply religious parents, meant that Habib internalised a lot of negative messages about gender, sexuality, and her body. Following a disastrous marriage at 16 to a f ...more
3.5 stars overall, although the first third of the book is considerably stronger, fresher, and more interesting than the rest.
Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride)
“We have always been here. It’s just that the world wasn’t ready for us yet.”

A vulnerable exploration of the intersection of sexuality, religious identity, and race, We Have Always Been Here is the coming of age story of a queer Pakistani Muslim woman growing into herself.

I was so drawn to Samra's story and didn't want to put it down! The book closes with a letter from the author to her seven-year-old self which left me an absolute mess in tears.

I highly recommend this memoir!

Trigger/Content Wa
Hamza Jahanzeb
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Reagan B.
Jun 24, 2021 rated it it was ok
It was just too short for a story that spanned more than 20 years. There wasn’t enough time to connect emotionally to the narrator, and the writing was very disjointed
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It goes without saying that Samra Habib's story is an important one. There is a lot of value in her sharing it. And in her memoir she covers a lot of ground in chronicling the events that have taken place in her life, starting with her childhood in Pakistan and shifting to her youth and adulthood in Canada.

For the most part, I enjoyed the book. Samra has seen and done a lot in her life, and she's such a likeable person that it made it super easy to fall into her memoir and read her words. But as
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
Samra Habib has faced many challenges, such as emigrating to Canada at a young age, an arranged marriage in her teens, and ultimately becoming a spokesperson for those who identify as both queer and Muslim. Her story is interesting, but I felt the book often glossed over what was really happening with Samra’s inner self.
Well that was boring.
The beginning of the debates for CANADA READS 2020 airs on CBC RADIO this coming Monday, March 16, 2020 and now that I have finished WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE: A QUEER MUSLIM MEMOIR by Samra Habib, there is one more book that I need to read to be fully prepared.

"When I've suffered my own disappointments and look to her for familiar compassion and comfort, the kind found in pop songs and greeting cards, I've been met with only "Baby, life is tough." Ironically, it was she, the very person who got
Mar 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
“Representation is a critical way for people to recognize that their experiences—even if invisible in the mainstream—are valid.”

I have nothing to say except that this was absolutely beautiful and I think that everyone should read this
Ɛɾιɳ ẞҽҽ
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
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredible memoir and I can see why it won Canada Reads. Run, don't walk, for this one. ...more
Jul 21, 2022 rated it really liked it

Am I getting out of my reading slump after months, or was this just THAT good?

Samra Habib's life story starts with a happy yet difficult childhood in Pakistan and continues as she comes of age as a refugee in Canada. Throughout her early years, she is told to hide who she is for her safety, but her strength shines in her advocacy when she abandons the mindset that keeps her quiet and hiding who she is.

Without spoling much, this is a memoir about growing up as a refugee and a queer Muslim, b
chantel nouseforaname
I thought this was a beautiful story about a young woman coming into herself and standing in her queer identity.

I do raise my eyebrows towards the colonial preference or colonized desire that Samra has towards partners as described in her book. There were points where it felt like there was a complete rejection of anything coloured as she worked her way through her feelings surrounding her independence and queerness.

I do think it's beautiful the relationship she was eventually able to establis
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
2.5 stars.

I empathize with all sorts of struggles and I never judge, but I think you’d have to go through A LOT and overcome a huge amount of adversity in order to be able to turn your life into a good memoir and have people be genuinely interested in your own fight.

In my opinion, the book would’ve had a bigger and better effect if it had just focused on what Habib is trying to accomplish now.

That being said, and after a very rocky start, the book actually does wrap up nicely. I did like the fa
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