A Woman Is No Man

On to book no. 44 of this year and I feel really fortunate to have read this incredible debut novel called “A woman is no man” by Etaf Rum.

A heart wrenching read from start to finish this is a story about 3 generations of Arab women. Born in a conservative family and raised by her grandparents in an immigrant neighborhood in America, Deya Ra’ad had understood at a very young age that being a woman means having no voice of her own. She longs to go to college but with her grandmother intent on marrying her off after high school, Deya sees no hope but to subjugate to her grandmother’s will. When an anonymous woman leaves her an envelope outside her home, Deya finds herself questioning everything she was told from childhood and piece together the mystery of what really happened to her parents.

Told from the points of view of the three central characters, Fareeda, the mother in law, Isra, the daughter in law and Deya, the daughter, the book sheds a lot of light on the state of Palestinian women and the brutal treatment meted out to them. I was holding my breath and shaking in horror, not being able to digest the many things told in the book. I have said this before, being a woman, even in this day and age is not easy. Then what can be told about the suffering of women born in conservative families where girls are considered to be a balwa or burden, where the only two things expected of them are marriage and producing a male heir, where they have no freedom, no choice, no voice and no control over their destinys? Even when I was aware that the characters in the book are fictional, I couldn’t stop thinking about how there are so many Isras and Deyas out there living this very story everyday yet feel powerful to turn their lives around.

One important aspect about this novel I liked is how Deya, Isra and Sarah were connected by their love for books. It was books that gave Isra the courage to escape domesticity and strive for a better future for her daughters.

Having talked about the book in length I would be doing it a great injustice if I don’t make a mention of its climax. Trust me, nothing prepared me for that ending. It tore my heart and ripped it into pieces. To know that Isra was so close to freedom and to have it snatched it away from her, how I wish there were a better, more happier ending. But this is reality. And this is the plight of so many women across the globe. We need to have more books like this. There are a lot of women suffering in silence everyday and books are an important way of reaching out to them, letting them know that they are not alone and there is hope, that they have the power to change their lives.

For me, this was a 5 star worthy read. Definitely recommended!

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