A Woman is No Man — Etaf Rum

Read Date: June 19, 2019
Rating: 3.5/5
Format: Print Book

Told through the narrative of three generations of Arab-American women, A Woman Is No Man is a tale of courage and identity that gives a glimpse into the inner functions of a culture that frequently and publicly is queried for its attitudes toward women and their rights.

One of the most interesting overarching observations I made was the ubiquitous stubbornness of our three main characters, Deya, her mother Isra, and Isra’s mother-in-law Fareeda. Each clings steadfastly to her beliefs, whether they be the importance of marriage, the importance of choice, the importance of bearing sons, etc., while simultaneously lamenting the lack of connection and understanding they feel with one another. I found this very poetic, as it rings true to situations we face in our lives everyday; we tend to be blind to our similarities with those around us due to our unwillingness to compromise.

I enjoyed the read and the development we get of these characters, their complexities becoming more apparent while still emphasizing the inherent connection to the other women by the shared thread of their oppression. However, the pacing was a bit lugubrious and a handful of chapters tended to be quite repetitive. Themes of oppression, domestic violence, victim silencing, etc. are incredibly important, but they tend to be hammered home a bit more than they needed to be; this novel is not home to nuance or subtlety.

*I should also acknowledge something very important: I am a white female US citizen who knows next to nothing about Palestine or Muslim culture. I’ve done my best to bear that in mind while chronicling my reflections here, but in the interest of the novel itself and, importantly, Ms. Rum and her dedication and bravery in crafting it, I just wanted to address that I am reading this work through pretty uninformed eyes, so take that into consideration at any length you deem appropriate.*

All this said, the story line itself was very interesting, and there were moments of very raw and emotional intensity throughout! It could’ve been packaged a little more neatly, but the general elements were quite powerful, and the overall impact is still one that will last for a while after the last chapter.

Get a copy of A Woman Is No Man here or, as always, at your local library! Happy reading!

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