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A Woman Is No Man

By: Etaf Rum
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (86 ratings)

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Summary

Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this heart-wrenching story of love, intrigue and courage.

‘Where I come from, we’ve learned to silence ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence will save us. Where I come from, we keep these stories to ourselves. To tell them to the outside world is unheard of – dangerous, the ultimate shame.’

Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law, Fareeda, and strange new husband, Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children - four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.

Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. 

But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family - knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past and her own future.

Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is a story of culture and honour, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.

©2019 Etaf Rum (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Sometimes heroism is loud and dramatic. Other times, it is daring to listen to that quiet voice within and having the courage to follow it... Etaf Rum has done a great service by sharing these voices with us." (Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times  best-selling author)

"A work of literary bravery." (Nadia Hashimi)

"A celebration of 'the strength and power of our women'." (Booklist)

What listeners say about A Woman Is No Man

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The easiest and hardest of reads... well worth it

This is no literary masterpiece in terms of poetic prose... but it is an excellent story which reverberates long after you have finished. It is a palestinian story, it is a muslim story but there are elements that every religion and every woman will recognise. Critics have slammed the endless questioning narrative, but it is the key element of the whole story... the endless dilemma of someone who feels powerless yet determined to make changes... in real life, finding strength is a slow process, with a lot of repeated history and this book tells it well. The story itself unfolds neatly, with no detail out of place. The performances on the audible version are excellent - I looked forward to journeys in my car so I could hear more... and I look forward to more books from Etaf.

2 people found this helpful

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A spectacular book indeed.

I was deeply drawn to every character. i thoroughly enjoyed this book and i highly recommend it. You can tell that books saved this author, books helped her become and writing this must have saved her too. It's not autobiographical but it might as well have been. thinking of getting it? a big YES.

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing

I've never fully read a book because i struggle to picture it but captured really well.

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Interesting story, awkward style

I found this book very engaging narratively, but I struggled with the repetitive writing and awkward dialogue. I look forward to watching this author develop her style.