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Archives 2020 > We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib - spoilers included

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message 2: by ❀ Susan (new)

❀ Susan G (susanayearofbooksblogcom) | 3667 comments Mod
I enjoyed reading about Samra Habib who is a strong woman who identifies as both Queer and Muslim. She moved to Canada from Pakistan to flee persecution of her family and has dealt with racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia and spent decades accepting and being happy with herself.

This is a great memoir for Canadians to learn and understand the challenges of new Canadians, LGBTQ and Muslim women. It is written in an honest, non-judgemental way to open eyes and make readers think about the rich fabric of Canada!

This is likely a book that I may not have even know about if it were not for Canada Reads!


message 3: by Heather(Gibby) (new)

Heather(Gibby) (heather-gibby) | 435 comments I just finished listening to this book, and I found it to be a very poignant, honest account of the authors personal experiences.

Looking forward to it being discussed during Canada Reads.


message 4: by Mj (last edited Feb 10, 2020 09:30PM) (new)

Mj From my Spinecracker post January 24-30, 2020

Just finished We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir, Picked it up before to read before the long list announcement and having read it am pleased that it made the shortlist. A debut for the author. I would categorize it as a memoir/essay combination. Excellent writing. Terrific insight. Inspiring individual courage and activism on Samra Habib's part. She seems to be one strong, creative woman, who has given a lot of thought to her upbringing and spent considerable time in reflection, analysis and processing. Her journalism training and experience is very much in evidence. Understated, thorough yet easy to read, honest and powerful.


message 5: by Anne (last edited Mar 02, 2020 10:27AM) (new)

Anne (artemis91) | 43 comments I just finished this book and absolutely loved it! It brings so much to the table: the experience of being a woman, an immigrant, brown person, Muslim, and queer person (among many others). I am so excited to hear this book discussed.

While most of the book was about Samra's experiences, I found a key theme of the book was the importance of safe spaces. Sometimes these were created by friends, as she got older Samra curates a chosen family, and finds a community that makes her feel safe, and then finds a queer-friendly temple to practice her religion safely. A good point of discussion could be how in some areas of Canada and many more places internationally, LGBT-friendly safe spaces are still challenged and threatened, and what Samra's life might have been like if she did not live where she could access such spaces.


message 6: by Wanda (new)

Wanda | 570 comments I finished the book recently and am glad that it was chosen for Canada Reads.

@ Anne- I echo your thoughts on safe spaces

I look forward to the discussions


message 7: by Connie (last edited Feb 10, 2020 06:38PM) (new)

Connie Paradowski | 55 comments I also just finished this book tonight. Memoirs have made up 2 of the five both this year and last. Not my normal genre but that is one thing I appreciate about Canada Reads that it pushes me to explore beyond my normal reading.

I am touched by the strength of these individuals in living through difficult situations but also the strength to share such personal and intimate stories so that we may better understand.

Their believe that we as a society can learn to be kinder and gentler is inspiring.


message 8: by Mj (last edited Feb 10, 2020 09:40PM) (new)

Mj Memoirs happen to be one of my favourite genres and I read them fairly frequently. Am currently reading From the Ashes which just "recently" arrived from a long waiting list.

I very much appreciated We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir and had it on hold before Canada Reads even announced the long list. I was very impressed. I think calling it a memoir does it a bit of unjustice. Many memoirs seem to be written by authors for cathartic purposes and often while the author is still raw about the emotions and feelings they are still processing. Sometimes this seems to put off readers and get readers wondering "which author had the toughest memoir story to tell" - not the best way to judge a book. My sense is this is why many people steer away from memoirs. I often read readers' complaints that they're not sure what is true and what isn't true.

What I especially liked about Samra Habib's book and why I referred to it in my earlier message #4 above and called it a memoir/essay combination was how apparent it was that Habib had done a lot of thinking and processing about her life and its issues before writing the book. In fact, many events she mentioned had taken place some thirty years earlier. I thought it was a major plus that besides her personal experiences she incorporated everything she had learned about herself and others finding themselves in a similar situation into her book and t spent much of her book advocating for positive changes. She wrote about clear solutions that she had already implemented and ideas on how to move forward. I felt she provided hope for others and eve named "real" places (that she had started) where readers could go to find safety and family. @ Anne - I agree with you that finding or creating safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community was a major theme of the book. It was wonderful to see the author has already taken such an active role in making this happen.

I thought Habib's writing was excellent and her focus on actions and solutions very impressive.


message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisafriel) | 235 comments I enjoyed this book. I think it must have been very courageous of Samra to write this. Considering the topics covered, it was a very easy read. I don't know why, but I almost feel like it was too easy. Although I found it very informative, I did not find it emotionally engaging. I expect it will do well in the debates.


message 10: by Allison (new)

Allison | 1916 comments Lisa. I know what you mean. It almost felt YA. In that way it reminded me of Homes from last year. Interesting story told with a lightness and lacking in depth — and I mean that as a comment on style not content.

Sometimes I felt like huge, deep swaths of the story were missing and I wanted a lot more. I enjoyed learning what I did from the sorry, but am so-so on the delivery as an experience.


message 11: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisafriel) | 235 comments @Allison - yes, I agree. It will be interesting to see how it does in the debates.


message 12: by Anne (new)

Anne (artemis91) | 43 comments @ Mj great observations! I agree it didn't really read like a memoir, but I loved her style.

I also think what this book brings to the table is the exploration of queerness. For her, that started as "what does that mean" up to "how does it apply to me?". As it is such a broad term, I enjoyed seeing her exploration of the LGBTQ community be mirrored of her exploration of herself, until she found where the two intersected.


message 13: by ❀ Susan (new)

❀ Susan G (susanayearofbooksblogcom) | 3667 comments Mod
I wonder what her parents think about arranging that marriage now that Samra is an adult and out in the open.


message 14: by Joanna (new)

Joanna (joanna_g) | 33 comments Just finished this, which completes my Canada Reads quintet!

I did enjoy it, and do think it's an important book for representation - I can't think of any other fictional or real queer Muslims.

That said, I agree with Allison above that it felt like it lacked depth. For me I think it was that we sort of got the same level of detail and attention to her school bullies as to her arranged marriage. And yes, it felt like big parts were missing or glossed over. I think she married Peter at 20, and then all of a sudden is talking about being 24, and I was wondering what had been happening in her marriage for all those years.


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