We Have Always Been Here

We Have Always Been Here

A Queer Muslim Memoir

Book - 2019
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"A queer Muslim searches for the language to express her truest self, making peace with her sexuality, her family, and Islam. Growing up in Pakistan, Samra Habib lacks a blueprint for the life she wants. She has a mother who gave up everything to be a pious, dutiful wife and an overprotective father who seems to conspire against a life of any adventure. Plus, she has to hide the fact that she's Ahmadi to avoid persecution from religious extremists. As the threats against her family increase, they seek refuge in Canada, where new financial and cultural obstacles await them. When Samra discovers that her mother has arranged her marriage, she must again hide a part of herself--the fun-loving, feminist teenager that has begun to bloom--until she simply can't any longer. So begins a journey of self-discovery that takes her to Tokyo, where she comes to terms with her sexuality, and to a queer-friendly mosque in Toronto, where she returns to her faith in the same neighbourhood where she attended her first drag show. Along the way, she learns that the facets of her identity aren't as incompatible as she was led to believe, and that her people had always been there--the world just wasn't ready for them yet."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Toronto : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Canada, 2019
ISBN: 9780735235007
0735235007
Characteristics: 220 pages ; 21 cm

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d
dirtbag
Aug 04, 2020

I don't think fear should dictate how we seek answers, connect, and help each other heal. pg 213

d
dirtbag
Aug 04, 2020

Before the sermon began we were all handed a sheet of house rules, which highlighted that we were not to argue with others about the validity of their faith, since all Muslims experience Islam in different ways. After all Islam is not a monolithic religion. Although all of us in that room viewed and experienced Islam through a queer lens, the version of Islam we practiced was very much shaped by what also set us apart: geography, culture, race, class, and history. pg 168

d
dirtbag
Aug 04, 2020

"I get it " she said. "You're trying to make Muslims who are treated unfairly feel like they are part of Islam. That's very Muslim of you." pg 196

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d
dirtbag
Aug 04, 2020

I loved the book for a variety of reasons. Her defiance; that she's found a place for herself as a queer Muslim, because the religion is about love not hate; her continued love for her parents despite their limited conservative views that restricted her early choices and ultimately the size and scope of her life; and mostly her own overall zest for living. But I am wondering if I am the only person who notices that she loves her family, her religion, and her friends but her closest relationships are transactional and distant?

RandomLibrarian Aug 16, 2019

Samra's memoir is a heartfelt narrative of queer, immigrant life. The joy when she speaks of her childhood in Pakistan radiates off the page as she lingers over descriptions of her family's various abodes as their financial situation improved - you can feel her nostalgia for her native land and how much she wishes she could return as she is now, a queer, Muslim adult. The story of her birth, followed by two more sisters, and their father's reaction to those who would behave as in the time of ignorance and mourn the birth of daughters bucks the stereotypes of Muslim men (hint: he names his third daughter "Princess" in Urdu).

The transition to life in Canada feels sharp, sudden, much like uprooting yourself and moving thousands of miles across the world to a country where you have no roots, no language, no shared faith or culture. She skillfully expresses the different ways of thinking between herself and her classmates - they dream of their weddings, while she is betrothed to her cousin and weddings aren't a big deal in her family; they argue with their families, she accepts her parents' decisions and the concept of personal agency is foreign.

Most importantly, this memoir gives us a glimpse into the faith of a queer Muslim woman who is rejected by so many Muslims for being queer, and by the LGBTQ+ community for being brown and Muslim. She loves Islam and grew up reading the Qur'an daily, and her determination to love in the face of hate - on the basis of her religion or sexuality or national origin - and cling to her religion, which gives her life meaning and hope, could inspire all of us to do and be better. This is an important memoir, offered from an all-too-rare perspective: a queer woman who remains joyfully, defiantly Muslim.

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