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We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,096 ratings  ·  872 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
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 co ...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
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.
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
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
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
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
3.5 stars overall, although the first third of the book is considerably stronger, fresher, and more interesting than the rest.
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
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.
Jun 17, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Khashayar Mohammadi
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
Sleepless Dreamer
I might fail all of my exams but at least now I know a bit more about queer Muslims so it's all good. Review to come (if I ever manage to understand how the Ottoman Empire became Turkey and why the Vietnam war looked the way that it did)! ...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
Debbie Notkin
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on impulse--I saw it on some list or other, and decided this was something I could know more about.

I found it interesting, and easy to read, but somehow bloodless--Habib chronicles many things that happened in her life, some of them very exciting, but she tells them like newspaper journalism. Although she was born in Pakistan, immigrated with her family to Canada as a young girl, had an Islamic arranged marriage, and has become an international photojournaist and activist, the
Lily Herman
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a stunning memoir from Samra Habib.

Habib's story started at a slower pace as she set up her early life in Pakistan and those initial memories and moments that eventually led to her lifelong trauma and an ongoing exploration of identity; it eventually built to a full-speed gallop at the end as all of the pieces started to fit together for her.

There were some spots where I wish we'd gotten more context or follow-through in some of the events Habib was describing, but this was still an excelle
Seriously! TEN stars! Gabon’s writing style is simplistic and direct, yet she depicts the complexities and interrelatedness of cross-sectional identities and discrimination so aptly! I feel as if I know this woman personally! And I would love to get to know her in person! What a story! I particularly appreciated her description of the various ways in which people have discovered or are discovering their own sexuality and spirituality. So very interesting. Change is possible. Never forget that! F ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Winner of the 2020 Canada Reads contest, this memoir is a coming of age, searching for your true self, and coming out as a queer Muslim. Samra Habib takes readers from her early life in Pakistan to her life in Toronto.

Hands down a beautiful and honest memoir.

Goodreads review published 12/09/20
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. ...more
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