Etaf Rum – A Woman Is No Man


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I couldn’t put it down. I was obsessed with figuring out the mystery of this family.”(Jenna Bush Hager,Today ShowBook Club Pick)

Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this powerful debut – a heart-wrenchingstory of love, intrigue, courage, and betrayal that willresonatewith women from all backgrounds,giving voice to the silenced and agency to the oppressed.

“Where I come from, weve learned to silence ourselves. Weve 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 naive 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, Isras oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareedas insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya cant 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 Manis 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.

Author: Etaf Rum
Narrator: Ariana Delawari, Dahlia Salem, Susan Nezami
Duration: 10 hours 15 minutes
Released: 19 May 2003
Publisher: HarperAudio
Language: English

User Review:

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It takes a long time to tell this simple story, yet I found it intriguing thanks to the deep dive inside this culture. It covers three generations of a Palestinian family in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I was shocked to learn how insular the women are, enslaved by their men and customs that originated a thousand years ago. Most lives are proscribed by early marriage, multiple babies, cooking, cleaning, and an occasional beating by a husband. Hopefully through education and the loosening of strictures, more Arab women can claim agency and enter the twenty-first century.

There were many descriptions of the women preparing food. I wondered if the print version had a glossary or even recipes. Many of the items sounded delicious!