A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A READ WITH JENNA TODAY SHOW BOOK CLUB PICK
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A Washington Post 10 Books to Read in March • A Marie Claire Best Women’s Fiction of 2019 • A Washington Book Review Difficult-To-Put-Down Novel • A Refinery 29 Best Books of the Month • An Electric Lit 20 Best Debuts of the First Half of 2019 • A The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2019 • A USA Today Best Book of the Week • An Elaine Newton—Summer Reading List Critic’s Choice • A Girls Night In Book Club Pick
“I couldn't put it down. I was obsessed with figuring out the mystery of this family." —Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show Book Club Pick
“Garnering justified comparisons to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns... Etaf Rum’s debut novel is a must-read about women mustering up the bravery to follow their inner voice.” —Refinery 29
“A stunning debut novel that hooked me from page one. With the utterly compelling characters of three Arab-American women, Rum accomplishes the high-wire act of telling a story that feels both contemporary and timeless, intimate and epic." —Tara Conklin, New York Times Bestselling Author of THE LAST ROMANTICS
"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 honor, 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.
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About the Author
Etaf Rum was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by Palestinian immigrants. She teaches college English literature in North Carolina, where she lives with her two children. She also runs the Instagram account @booksandbeans. A Woman Is No Man is her first novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A great insight into another and there struggles to fit into America but to be true to their beliefs. Loved the multiple perspectives and storylines.
Loved this. Could not put it down!
“A real choice doesn’t have conditions. A real choice is free.” This book blew me away. I usually like (but don’t love) generational family stories, but this was really something special. I was so drawn into the stories and lives of these characters, and my review is not going to do it justice. There are three main characters: Isra, who is married off at 17 and swept from her home in Palestine to the home of her husband’s family in Brooklyn; Deya, her eldest daughter now living with her grandparens and three younger sisters; and Fareeda, Isra’s mother in law and Deya’s grandmother. Isra’s chapters take place beginning in 1990, from her marriage through the time when Deya is young. Deya’s chapters take place in 2008, when she is a senior in high school. And Fareeda has chapters in both timeframes, although we get less of her perspective. There is so much wrapped up in these three women’s stories: culture, duty, gender discrimination, womanhood, manhood, domestic abuse, family, shame, immigration, racism, fear, bravery, choice, action, inaction. And probably even more. Honestly, my eyes flew over these pages. I would read 50 pages and look up, blinking, not realizing that I’d been so absorbed. And my heart broke again and again for these women even as their strength and the complexity of their lives and decisions put me in their shoes, again and again. I had no idea how Isra’s story was going to end; how Etaf Rum was going to close the loop. But she did it, and I didn’t even realize what she was doing until the very last page. And then it hit me, and then it ended, and wow. Hats off, Etaf Rum. Please give us more novels.
Best book I have ever read - and I've read a lot of books.
This book is hands down one of the best books I have ever, and likely will ever, read in my lifetime. If you take nothing else away from this review, the bottom line is that reading this book has the potential to completely move you, change you and break your heart wide open. The bravery and courage that Etaf has in bringing this particular story of Palestinian women living in very traditional cultural roles in their families (in America no less) is stunning. This book is a revelation. I devoured this book in a single sitting, staying up well into the night to see what would become of the women in this story, despite knowing that many of the endings would not be happy. I feel like I don't have sufficient or adequate words to review this book - riveting, remarkable, phenomenal, stunning, incredible, moving, heart wrenching, empowering, a masterpiece. Every one of those and more. This is a book that really couldn't, and shouldn't, be boiled down to a short blurb review. Instead I implore you to read this book. Buy it, borrow it, listen to it - just get a copy of this book and digest it. It is a book we should all be reading, because there is a dialogue here that needs to happen in our world. 10 out of 5 stars good. Do not pass this one by.
"A woman is no man" follows the lives of Deya, Isra and Fareeda - three Arab women from three generations living in America. Told in three POVs and dual timelines, this novel gives us a the story of these three women: Deya is Isra's daughter and she was born in America and raised by her grandmother Fareeda; Isra is Palestinian who married to an American husband and immigrated to America; and Fareeda is also Palestinian who moved to America as a refugee. "A woman is no man" delivers to us a deep insight into several debatable subjects about Palestinian-American women's life: based on Deya's story, even though she was born in America, she was constantly suffering the oppressive culture that represses the women in every aspect - the lack of independence either in actions or thoughts/will. The strict and almost barbaric tradition of submission of all women and the absence of self-voice is powerfully portrayed by the author. Even knowing a lot beforehand about the Arab culture, I was outraged by the absurdity of the gender role that women are meant to marry someone and have descendants as the solely purpose. Deya is a character that I learned to like her throughout the story as I was following up her growth in maturity and strength - her later self-discovery and decisions were the outcome that I was expecting. Isra is a character placed in the middle of the three generations: she was raised in Arab tradition but at the same time, she had hopes for a different life when moving to America. My applauds to Etaf Rum for portraying masterly her struggles with attempts of giving birth to a boy. Her feelings were utterly genuine and heartbreaking; through her I could feel the motherhood's love and care. I had some strong negative feelings about Fareeda for her insensitivity and vengeance thoughts, plus I felt totally bothered by her dependence in her family despite the fact that she has been so long living in America. I have, nevertheless, gradually changed my mind whilst immersing into Fareeda's mind, getting to understand more her powerless against the circumstances and society's (cultural) pressure. The characters are so well-crafted and captivating, the narrative is compelling and in addition to the fact that it is a semi-autobiographical novel (as well as the portrait of many Palestinian-Americans' life) turned it more impactful and thought-provoking. I couldn't ignore the raw emotions that illustrated the whole storyline. This debut novel is completely impressive and allows us a powerful look into a wonderful story written by Etaf Rum. Brutally honest in its descriptions and realities, "A woman is no man" made me reflect on love, respect, family and human's rights.
I really loved this debut! Great writing and great story Thank you for telling it.