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A CANADA READS 2020 SELECTION NATIONAL BESTSELLER How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she A CANADA READS 2020 SELECTION NATIONAL BESTSELLER How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space--in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit--became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved. So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one's truest self.


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A CANADA READS 2020 SELECTION NATIONAL BESTSELLER How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she A CANADA READS 2020 SELECTION NATIONAL BESTSELLER How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space--in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit--became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved. So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one's truest self.

30 review for We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Swiftly recounts the photographer-writer's youth in Pakistan, coming of age in Canada, and quest to come to terms with her sexuality on her own terms as a queer Muslim. The writing's solid but feels surface level once the focus shifts to her adulthood, two thirds of the way into the memoir; she glosses over stretches of her life and doesn't much sketch the personalities of those close to her. Worth checking out, but surprising that this beat out Jaquira Díaz's Ordinary Girls and Saidiya Hartman' Swiftly recounts the photographer-writer's youth in Pakistan, coming of age in Canada, and quest to come to terms with her sexuality on her own terms as a queer Muslim. The writing's solid but feels surface level once the focus shifts to her adulthood, two thirds of the way into the memoir; she glosses over stretches of her life and doesn't much sketch the personalities of those close to her. Worth checking out, but surprising that this beat out Jaquira Díaz's Ordinary Girls and Saidiya Hartman's Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments for the 2020 Lesbian Memoir/Biography Lammy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brenda - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

    We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir is the winner of 2020 Canada reads battling in Canada’s battle of the books for the title of the one book the country should read. I have to admit I live in a Canadian bubble and my own tiny seduced bubble. I had the impression that things are okay here in Canada, but after the events that took place recently, I have come to realize it’s time for me to step out of that bubble and challenge my thoughts and assumptions. So I decided to start with wh We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir is the winner of 2020 Canada reads battling in Canada’s battle of the books for the title of the one book the country should read. I have to admit I live in a Canadian bubble and my own tiny seduced bubble. I had the impression that things are okay here in Canada, but after the events that took place recently, I have come to realize it’s time for me to step out of that bubble and challenge my thoughts and assumptions. So I decided to start with what I do by reading and diversify my reading, which lead me to this one, and Canada reads. Samra Habib starts by sharing her earlier years growing up as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan. She was taught to keep her identity a secret to protect herself from danger. Hiding became a familiar way of survival for her, and she continued hiding after reaching Canada as refugees and following the rules of her parents. She began to realize she needed to find her authentic self, who she identified as and with who. Samra’s journey brings light to hiding and the importance of why finding who you identify as is. Her story speaks to anyone who has ever felt out of place. I picked up something valuable here from her and her journey, and she challenged my thoughts on a few things towards racism, identity and to privileges of feeling safe. As a white Canadian, I have some universal feelings of anxiety and safety but I don’t feel unsafe taking the bus because of the colour of my skin or who I identify as. We all should have that privilege. Samra’s voice is quiet yet powerful, compassionate, kind and understanding towards the reader, and it’s clear she is opening up a safe place for everyone wanting to find who they identify as and for people who want to confront their assumptions and seek understanding for each other. She took me out of my shoes and into the shoes of people identifying as queer or queer Muslim. She challenged me to think about my advantages and see how different they are from hers when she first came to Canada and living here. I do want to mention Samra addresses her faith as well and at times it felt heavy with everything else that caught my attention from her story. I feel I missed some things there and can’t speak to that part of her story. I highly recommend this memoir.

  3. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    An amazing memoir. Habib recounts her childhood as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where her family had to hide to stay safe in the face of Islamic extremists and then how this pattern of hiding combined with sexism and homophobia followed her to Canada, where she felt forced to hide her femininity and queerness. Beautiful thoughts about art, activism, spirituality, and more. Passages about her finding her people, other queer Muslims, made me cry. I think my only quibble is I wanted a little bit mo An amazing memoir. Habib recounts her childhood as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where her family had to hide to stay safe in the face of Islamic extremists and then how this pattern of hiding combined with sexism and homophobia followed her to Canada, where she felt forced to hide her femininity and queerness. Beautiful thoughts about art, activism, spirituality, and more. Passages about her finding her people, other queer Muslims, made me cry. I think my only quibble is I wanted a little bit more in terms of character. A few people, like her siblings, felt too opaque, but perhaps she intentionally didn't write much about them. Full review on my blog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Samra Habib, artist and activist, did not want to sacrifice her identity as a Muslim when she came out. This is her story of her journey and how she found community. I found it uplifting! And this is memoir 7 of my Non-fiction November reading project for 2019.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Basma

    I have been a fan of Samra Habib's work since a few years back. I think I first stumbled upon her writing in The Guardian and later found myself on tumblr looking at her photo projects. So you can say that I went into this with a little bias and curiosity to know more about her, her work and why she ended up writing a memoir. I've had this book on my to-read list since I first heard it was coming out in 2017. So I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy on Netgalley and I think I'll get a co I have been a fan of Samra Habib's work since a few years back. I think I first stumbled upon her writing in The Guardian and later found myself on tumblr looking at her photo projects. So you can say that I went into this with a little bias and curiosity to know more about her, her work and why she ended up writing a memoir. I've had this book on my to-read list since I first heard it was coming out in 2017. So I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy on Netgalley and I think I'll get a copy once it's out. I am still unsure about how to discuss this book and all the points mentioned because I have a lot of thoughts.. but I'll just say how it made me feel as this seems easier than analyzing. This is a book about Samra Habib's life and upbringing, her work and her queerness, and how she ended up being in the place she is now. There is a lot of internal struggle and rebellion that comes through while reading this that feels so raw and so much like what myself and the people I know go through- to differing degrees. Despite being of different sects and from different countries, the struggle is the same for those of us who see things a little differently than black and white. There's a part in this book where she voices her concern about how narrating her life opens up the door for white people to criticize and point fingers at her way of life and how she fees like she is feeding into the narrative they lavishly consume and what the media has always portrayed. And even if there is truth in that, even if someone can say I told you so, for the other people out there who still live in similar societies which she has managed to leave, this feels like safety. This feels like being heard and feels like someone out there actually knows what it's like to struggle so profoundly to find a place within oneself and one's religion. Voices and books like this offer a sort of comfort that can be difficult to find or trust. I have a lot of favorite lines in this book but one of them that stands out is when her brother asks her why she wants to identify with being a Muslim when her queer identity is not always welcomed and why is she trying so hard to make peace with it.. Won't spoil what she said just so you can read the book but it sums up what a lot of go through. This book gets a 5 star because I want more books and more voices like that out there in the book industry and on people's shelves. I however thought the first part of the book was much stronger. The latter half when she delves into her life as a grown-up and her work and finding peace within herself and her religion felt too rushed and I felt like she was jumping from one thought to the next. But it is nevertheless great and it was the right book at the right time for me. I would recommend getting acquainted with her work before reading the book though, whether previous articles or her photo projects because I felt it kind of paves the way into why she wrote this memoir. [Around the world pick for Pakistan.] (I received a free e-book copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    2.5 rounded up CANADA READS SHORTLISTED On the one hand, this is a compelling coming of age memoir about holding multiple conflicting identities and negotiating them into one's self. Habib, a Pakistani Canadian takes us from growing up in a relatively conservative Muslim family, being in an arranged marriage and coming to terms that these were things she did not want. She quickly breaks from these constraints and discovers a sexual identity she did not realize was there. She must renegotiate her 2.5 rounded up CANADA READS SHORTLISTED On the one hand, this is a compelling coming of age memoir about holding multiple conflicting identities and negotiating them into one's self. Habib, a Pakistani Canadian takes us from growing up in a relatively conservative Muslim family, being in an arranged marriage and coming to terms that these were things she did not want. She quickly breaks from these constraints and discovers a sexual identity she did not realize was there. She must renegotiate her relationships with her family and her religion and in doing so learns that her parents are in fact more supportive than she could have predicted. While this is a powerful story in some respects (maybe even a book that brings Canada into focus, the theme of Canada Reads this year), I felt that it lacked any sense of tension to be gripping as a work of writing. The fears she has confronting her parents or discovering her self, are barely on the page before they are resolved. The conflicts with family or society are muted, quickly worked around. Even moments of self exile from her loved ones remain obviously ephemeral, never leaving thr reader a sense of uncertainty. Habib may be trying to assure others that the path of self realization is not that frightening but in doing so leaves the book lacking.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib is a Canada Reads 2020 finalist. A meaningful and beautifully written account of the author's courage and perseverance to find happiness as an immigrant in Canada. Her story is incredibly inspiring! Her need for acceptance and her acceptance of others is heart warming. She made mistakes along the way and is not afraid to admit them. A coming of age memoir that describes in great detail her struggle with identity, faith and family. This We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib is a Canada Reads 2020 finalist. A meaningful and beautifully written account of the author's courage and perseverance to find happiness as an immigrant in Canada. Her story is incredibly inspiring! Her need for acceptance and her acceptance of others is heart warming. She made mistakes along the way and is not afraid to admit them. A coming of age memoir that describes in great detail her struggle with identity, faith and family. This could easily win Canada Reads 2020 as I feel it does "Bring Canada Into Focus".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    While I enjoyed learning about Ms. Habib and would love to see her photography, I would not say this book was much of an exploration as stated in the summary. For despite being presented as a memoir, I felt it was much more of an objective stating of the facts of Ms. Habib's life and generalized information about difficulties in the Pakistan and Muslim cultures, I did not feel like I finished this book knowing Ms. Habib. While this disconnect might be due to her need to protect herself, it does While I enjoyed learning about Ms. Habib and would love to see her photography, I would not say this book was much of an exploration as stated in the summary. For despite being presented as a memoir, I felt it was much more of an objective stating of the facts of Ms. Habib's life and generalized information about difficulties in the Pakistan and Muslim cultures, I did not feel like I finished this book knowing Ms. Habib. While this disconnect might be due to her need to protect herself, it does a disservice in a memoir. Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for a copy of the book. This review is my own opinion.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    When I asked Zainab what advice she would give to young queer Muslims who are looking for support and community, her response gave me chills. I still turn to her words for motivation: “We have always been here, it's just that the world wasn't ready for us yet. Today, with all the political upheaval in the Muslim World, some of us, those who are not daily threatened with death or rejection, have to speak for others. They have to tell stories of a community that is either denied or scorned. Toge When I asked Zainab what advice she would give to young queer Muslims who are looking for support and community, her response gave me chills. I still turn to her words for motivation: “We have always been here, it's just that the world wasn't ready for us yet. Today, with all the political upheaval in the Muslim World, some of us, those who are not daily threatened with death or rejection, have to speak for others. They have to tell stories of a community that is either denied or scorned. Together, through facing distinct realities, we should be united – united in the desire to be, in the desire to enjoy being free, safe, and happy. It is not going to be easy and one may never reach a reconciliation with oneself (or with religion), but at least we should care for each other. In face of the challenges, our sense of community and our shared aspirations for a better world should make us stronger.” Shortlisted for the 2020 Canada Reads program – a tournament of books put on by our national broadcaster, with this year's statement of intent being “one book to bring Canada into focus, (with an) aim to inspire readers to consider a different perspective about the country and themselves” – We Have Always Been Here seems custom-ordered to fill this purpose. As a memoir written by a queer Muslim woman who came to Canada with her family as persecuted refugees in the 1990s, Samra Habib's account is an eye-opening look into her life as a person at the outer margins of our society. Suffering racism, classism, a suffocating form of Islam within her family and the effects of Islamophobia from those outside of it – all before Habib began to identify as queer – it would seem that Habib's biggest challenge growing up – whether in Pakistan or Toronto – was living in a world where she didn't see herself represented. To that end, this book feels really vital; to claim visible space for her community within Canada and to prove to others on these margins that they are not alone. I have some quibbles with the writing style (I just wanted more; more detail, more introspection, something more philosophically universal) but such quibbles always seem petty when considering a memoir: this is what Habib decided to share we us and it's a gift as is. I could see this winning Canada Reads. Our understanding of the interior lives of those who are not like us is contingent on their ability to articulate themselves in the language we know. The further removed people are from proficiency in that language, the less likely they are to be understood as complex individuals. The audience often fills in the blanks with their own preconceptions. But visual language is more easily parsed and is a much more democratic form of communication. With a degree in Journalism that saw her eventually working in advertising – often going along on photoshoots where she was tutored in photography – Habib decided to start a project of photographing and collecting the stories of other queer Muslims, curated on the tumblr Just Me and Allah. We Have Always Been Here is the story of the life that led to the creation of this project. Growing up as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan (a small sect within Islam that routinely sees itself the target of extremists), Habib learned early to make herself invisible; invisible to her teachers and classmates (who weren't to know that her family were Ahmadi) and invisible to her father (who would often bellow, “Allah hates the loud laughter of women!” when she and her sisters would play around). When government-sponsored discrimination and attacks became too much to bear, Habib's family fled to Canada as refugees – leaving behind not just the entire world they knew, but also trading in a comparatively luxurious lifestyle for a small apartment and meagre welfare payments. Habib tried to be the compliant daughter her parents wanted her to be – excelling at school despite constantly being bullied, going along with an arranged marriage to her cousin as a teenager – but when she eventually decided to leave the loveless marriage, Habib was forced from her mosque and become estranged from her parents. It took Habib many years of exploring – the world, the arts, her own sexuality – before she found herself, and along the way, she fully reconnected with her family and discovered the Unity Mosque in Toronto (an underground space for queer Muslims) and there, she was finally able to reclaim her Muslim identity. Growing up, I wish I'd had access to queer Muslim writers and artists who saw, felt, and feared like I did. Who didn't want to denounce Islam and instead wanted to see whether there was still a place for them in it. Who hurt like I did. Perhaps if I had, I would have sought comfort, company, and answers in their work when I was at my loneliest. I suppose my main quibble is that Habib writes like a journalist and her prose lacks somewhat in emotionality. But that's a small complaint when she has so obviously met her own objectives with this memoir: to add representation of a marginalised group where before it was lacking. We Have Always Been Here is a quick and informative read that broadened my own ideas about how people outside my own immediate community live, but more importantly, it might well serve as a liferaft for someone who needs it. All good stuff.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meena Khan

    This book is very misleading if you are interested in learning about Islam. Please don't use this book as your reference point. For example, when the writer describes the differences between Shia and Sunni muslims, she does it in a haste without any real, religious knowledge. That whole account sounds fake and comes across as if it was just inserted as a way to use Islam to promote the book. Why talk about Shia Muslims if she does not know anything about their teachings? It was very offensive to This book is very misleading if you are interested in learning about Islam. Please don't use this book as your reference point. For example, when the writer describes the differences between Shia and Sunni muslims, she does it in a haste without any real, religious knowledge. That whole account sounds fake and comes across as if it was just inserted as a way to use Islam to promote the book. Why talk about Shia Muslims if she does not know anything about their teachings? It was very offensive towards Shia Muslims! If she needed to include that passage, she at least could have found more information online through Google. One would think she had done some research before publishing the book, but she clearly hasn't or couldn't care less. It would have been better for the writer if she had just focused on talking about her life as a queer individual. It feels as if she just talks about Islam, even when she no longer is a practicing Muslim, to just get attention and make some money. It is appalling and offensive to muslims that this woman chooses to use Islam to promote her book and her lifestyle even when she clearly is not a practicing muslim or follows the religious teaching herself. What a shame! Plus, how old is she? 30 something. I mean, are you are a Syrian refugee who has survived gang rape and other atrocities or are you Malala Yousafzai who took a bullet in the head as a consequence for promoting education in Swat, Pakistan? Meaning, there are a lot more powerful stories of survival and resilience written by practising muslim women, this is not one of them. At best, it is a memoir of a young woman who has a comfortable life in Canada despite being a queer woman and an immigrant. Another point is that the writer clearly lives a privileged life yet depicts herself as a victim. As pointed out by someone else that she is not poor to begin with for she frequently travels, has a good source of income and does not come across as a victim from any angle. Therefore, her whole book comes across as being dishonest and misleading as well as using the religion of Islam to make more money (perhaps to afford more privileged traveling across the globe).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    Samra Habib's memoir is beautifully written, sometimes raw. She describes her family, and the many rules in place to police a young Pakistani woman in Pakistan. These rules become even more important to her parents when they settle in Canada. (The parental and societal restrictions felt very, uncomfortably familiar.) Her double life of trying to please everyone but herself was difficult to listen to; the moment she finally came out to her mother had me crying for the immediate, unexpected accept Samra Habib's memoir is beautifully written, sometimes raw. She describes her family, and the many rules in place to police a young Pakistani woman in Pakistan. These rules become even more important to her parents when they settle in Canada. (The parental and societal restrictions felt very, uncomfortably familiar.) Her double life of trying to please everyone but herself was difficult to listen to; the moment she finally came out to her mother had me crying for the immediate, unexpected acceptance.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    With incredible resolve, Samra Habib ably navigates leaving her troubled Pakistan, complies with an arranged marriage, immigrates to Canada, and discovers her own queer identity. Despite all that she has endured from such a young age, she still has space in her heart for understanding and grace. And even the capacity to build something from her own experiences. It is an important book that offers representation for those struggling to define their own identity within the confines of their faith a With incredible resolve, Samra Habib ably navigates leaving her troubled Pakistan, complies with an arranged marriage, immigrates to Canada, and discovers her own queer identity. Despite all that she has endured from such a young age, she still has space in her heart for understanding and grace. And even the capacity to build something from her own experiences. It is an important book that offers representation for those struggling to define their own identity within the confines of their faith and culture. Samra offers hope that there is a way to balance the two, that becoming her own queer self doesn't mean she still can't embrace and celebrate her faith. To that end there is a truly beautiful moment when she finds sanctuary at Toronto's Unity Mosque where she is free to be queer and Muslim. For me though, it felt like there were no stakes in this and I find myself struggling to recall the narrative even a few weeks later but I'm still glad this book exists out in the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    3.5 stars overall, although the first third of the book is considerably stronger, fresher, and more interesting than the rest.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hamza Jahanzeb

    Samra Habib provide an honest, raw and gripping account of her life from Pakistan, escaping the clutches of religious intolerance, into a new world in Canada where she and her family sought refuge. It is brilliantly told, with an absolute clear narrative that reads like it's being told to you by a nearby friend. The way in which Habib reflects on the earlier years in her life, provide for great insight into what life was like being the Ahmadi Muslin in an intolerant Pakistan. Her relationships, Samra Habib provide an honest, raw and gripping account of her life from Pakistan, escaping the clutches of religious intolerance, into a new world in Canada where she and her family sought refuge. It is brilliantly told, with an absolute clear narrative that reads like it's being told to you by a nearby friend. The way in which Habib reflects on the earlier years in her life, provide for great insight into what life was like being the Ahmadi Muslin in an intolerant Pakistan. Her relationships, trauma and life events also cause her to become the woman she is, and I really enjoyed finding a memoir in which I could relate on so many levels. It is a necessary read for all LGBTQI+ identifying folk, as well as allies. Or even bigots. I can't tell you how urgently needed this book; do read this book, re-read it (as I found myself doing) for we often lack on how identities intersect, and this book provided me with so much hope. It resonated with my own journey, and that of my own Queer friends. There are parts where I sobbed - others where I felt like I was a cheshire cat cackling on the tube. Ultimately, this is a joyful uplifting tale, with a gorgeously seamless narrative - I can't recommend this book to you all, and it is in my top 3 books (so far!) of 2019. Get yourself a copy pre-ordered now - as I think this will be a summer read must-have!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺

    Samra Habib has faced many challenges, such as emigrating to Canada at a young age, an arranged marriage in her teens, and ultimately becoming a spokesperson for those who identify as both queer and Muslim. Her story is interesting, but I felt the book often glossed over what was really happening with Samra’s inner self.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    Incredible memoir and I can see why it won Canada Reads. Run, don't walk, for this one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Khashayar Mohammadi

    ESSENTIAL

  18. 5 out of 5

    ❤️

    It goes without saying that Samra Habib's story is an important one. There is a lot of value in her sharing it. And in her memoir she covers a lot of ground in chronicling the events that have taken place in her life, starting with her childhood in Pakistan and shifting to her youth and adulthood in Canada. For the most part, I enjoyed the book. Samra has seen and done a lot in her life, and she's such a likeable person that it made it super easy to fall into her memoir and read her words. But as It goes without saying that Samra Habib's story is an important one. There is a lot of value in her sharing it. And in her memoir she covers a lot of ground in chronicling the events that have taken place in her life, starting with her childhood in Pakistan and shifting to her youth and adulthood in Canada. For the most part, I enjoyed the book. Samra has seen and done a lot in her life, and she's such a likeable person that it made it super easy to fall into her memoir and read her words. But as a book, it felt incomplete in some ways (especially when I consider it on this year's Canada Reads shortlist, which I'll get into more later). She doesn't really stay with a topic/experience long enough to reflect on her own thoughts and feelings about it. For example, she spends the majority of the book's length documenting the ways in which Islam (more so her family's faithfulness in it, I should say), played a part in the varying degrees of trauma she experienced - sexual abuse, arranged marriage, estrangement from family, hiding her sexuality, etc. At the same time, she speaks only briefly of her admiration for the religion and her decision to continue following it in her adulthood. But she doesn't expand on these things to offer any insight into the hows or whys that Islam continued to play such an important role in her life, or how she reconciled with the religion as an independent adult. She spent so much time highlighting all the negative ways in which it impacted her life, and I would have really enjoyed reading about the positive/admirable parts of it that helped her to mend her relationship with it. On page 171, she says, "For me, practicing Islam feeds my desire to understand the beauty and complexity of the universe and to treat everyone, regardless of their beliefs, with respect". I think that's a beautiful way to look at one's faith and to live their life. Yet, having just read the other 170 pages, it actually kind of confused me because I had no idea how she got from point A to point B - she just tells you she got there. I don't mean to scrutinize or question her faith at all, but to read that sentence after having read all the other pages in which she describes that same religion as having, essentially, been the root of what had previously made her feel disrespected, shunned, disposable, and like a second-class citizen, as a reader it made it harder to connect to her memoir when she didn't go on to explore in any sort of depth at all her own thought processes or how she rediscovered her faith and found her place within it as a queer woman. So, in regards to Canada Reads 2020, with the theme being 'a book to bring Canada into focus', I definitely do think that stories such as Samra's need to be brought into the country's collective focus more. We're such a diverse country and we are known for how welcoming we are to immigrants and refugees - but we have a lot we need to work on (in many respects) to really be able to properly reflect those qualities. But with so much of the subject matter in this book (this goes for more than just the religious aspect) never really going anywhere deeper than surface level, I don't think it is as impactful as it should/could be had it perhaps been a little longer in length so as to make room for more of these things to be explored.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The beginning of the debates for CANADA READS 2020 airs on CBC RADIO this coming Monday, March 16, 2020 and now that I have finished WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE: A QUEER MUSLIM MEMOIR by Samra Habib, there is one more book that I need to read to be fully prepared. "When I've suffered my own disappointments and look to her for familiar compassion and comfort, the kind found in pop songs and greeting cards, I've been met with only "Baby, life is tough." Ironically, it was she, the very person who got The beginning of the debates for CANADA READS 2020 airs on CBC RADIO this coming Monday, March 16, 2020 and now that I have finished WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE: A QUEER MUSLIM MEMOIR by Samra Habib, there is one more book that I need to read to be fully prepared. "When I've suffered my own disappointments and look to her for familiar compassion and comfort, the kind found in pop songs and greeting cards, I've been met with only "Baby, life is tough." Ironically, it was she, the very person who got me into the situation, who also taught me the lesson that would ultimately set me free: that we all go through hardships, tragedies, and barriers, that they're all part of life in a world that has always been incredibly unfair and cruel, but it's what we do with those experiences that allows us to leave our mark." Page 70 (We've Always Been Here) "Saba discussed how, like many people in America, she was balancing a lot of different feelings. There was fear for what the administration was going to do and how it would affect her and the people she loved. "Our safety, our survival, is routinely threatened in the name of some hypothetical greater safety that does not include us," she told me. "What they are trying to keep safe is white supremacy, what they are trying to protect is their own power." Page 208 (We've Always Been Here by Samra Habib) "THE FUTURE IS HERE BUT THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO COME!" Page 125 (We've Always Been Here by Samra Habib) "Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into the corner, her need for a safe place – in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit - became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience ... So begins ... a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along..." - Quote from flap on inside front cover of We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib This memoir starts with five-year-old Samra Habib fascinated by a woman with a shaved head like hers. The woman was socializing and laughing with men in the street and then hopped on her motorcycle and drove away. The ending is a letter from the author to her seven-year-old self. Samra Habib is a photographer, activist, and a journalist. We Have Always Been Here is her first book. 3 stars ⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️

  20. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    As a young girl in Pakistan, Samra Habib faced discrimination because her family belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which is deemed heretical by many other Muslims. When she was a teenager in Canada, Habib faced discrimination for being a refugee, a Muslim, and a South Asian woman. All of these experiences, together with an upbringing by deeply religious parents, meant that Habib internalised a lot of negative messages about gender, sexuality, and her body. Following a disastrous marriage at 16 to a f As a young girl in Pakistan, Samra Habib faced discrimination because her family belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which is deemed heretical by many other Muslims. When she was a teenager in Canada, Habib faced discrimination for being a refugee, a Muslim, and a South Asian woman. All of these experiences, together with an upbringing by deeply religious parents, meant that Habib internalised a lot of negative messages about gender, sexuality, and her body. Following a disastrous marriage at 16 to a first cousin, and a second failed marriage a few years later, Habib came to an understanding of herself as a queer feminist and over several years learned out to reconcile those aspects of her identity with her Muslim faith. This is a very necessary memoir, conveying the kind of experiences which are rarely foregrounded in mainstream conversations. Yet there's something about Habib's style of writing which prevents We Have Always Been Here from having as much as impact as I think it could have. Perhaps a side-effect of her training as a journalist, Habib is slightly distant from her own story. We are told about, rather than shown, some major moments in her life; some of her family members and most of her romantic partners remain blurry figures on the periphery of the narrative. Fair enough. There is no requirement for a memoir writer to gut themselves on the page, let alone the people in their life. But I think the book could have been effective even within certain boundaries if Habib hadn't frequently deployed the glossy, homogenised jargon I think of TherapySpeak (you know, everyone's Living Their Truth in order to Be Their Authentic Self).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    There were moments during this book that I felt a little bit nervous (like any time the author mentioned trans people), but overall this was a beautiful portrayal of self-discovery. I have read a lot about queer Christians, but to read about the author's relationship with Islam forced me to confront my attitudes towards organized religion in a way I hadn't before. That said, it also confuses me that there was a lot of time spent on the struggles of poverty, but it seems to me that once Habib was There were moments during this book that I felt a little bit nervous (like any time the author mentioned trans people), but overall this was a beautiful portrayal of self-discovery. I have read a lot about queer Christians, but to read about the author's relationship with Islam forced me to confront my attitudes towards organized religion in a way I hadn't before. That said, it also confuses me that there was a lot of time spent on the struggles of poverty, but it seems to me that once Habib was in a more stable financial situation, we no longer got to understand how she was able to afford so many trips abroad, for example. I think a more honest account of people's financial situations -- especially creative people -- would be valuable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zain

    2.5 stars. I empathize with all sorts of struggles and I never judge, but I think you’d have to go through A LOT and overcome a huge amount of adversity in order to be able to turn your life into a good memoir and have people be genuinely interested in your own fight. In my opinion, the book would’ve had a bigger and better effect if it had just focused on what Habib is trying to accomplish now. That being said, and after a very rocky start, the book actually does wrap up nicely. I did like the fa 2.5 stars. I empathize with all sorts of struggles and I never judge, but I think you’d have to go through A LOT and overcome a huge amount of adversity in order to be able to turn your life into a good memoir and have people be genuinely interested in your own fight. In my opinion, the book would’ve had a bigger and better effect if it had just focused on what Habib is trying to accomplish now. That being said, and after a very rocky start, the book actually does wrap up nicely. I did like the fact that Habib refused to give up her faith, and is trying hard to fight for what she believes in targeting countries where being queer is still very much frowned upon.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lily Herman

    What a stunning memoir from Samra Habib. Habib's story started at a slower pace as she set up her early life in Pakistan and those initial memories and moments that eventually led to her lifelong trauma and an ongoing exploration of identity; it eventually built to a full-speed gallop at the end as all of the pieces started to fit together for her. There were some spots where I wish we'd gotten more context or follow-through in some of the events Habib was describing, but this was still an excelle What a stunning memoir from Samra Habib. Habib's story started at a slower pace as she set up her early life in Pakistan and those initial memories and moments that eventually led to her lifelong trauma and an ongoing exploration of identity; it eventually built to a full-speed gallop at the end as all of the pieces started to fit together for her. There were some spots where I wish we'd gotten more context or follow-through in some of the events Habib was describing, but this was still an excellent memoir nonetheless and one that everyone should absolutely read. Habib walked the careful line of explaining her life's story without trying to speak for all queer Muslims, and We Have Always Been Here is a beautiful examination of queer Muslim identity. Content warning: Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, mention of attempted suicide

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ɛɾιɳ

    I was beyond excited when I found out I'd won a paperback copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I love reading memoirs, and We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir was certainly no exception. I couldn't put it down and finished it in just a few hours. Highly recommended. While I can't personally relate to the experiences of being a Muslim or a refugee, and have never had to confront the fear of ending an arranged marriage, I could relate to a lot of other things: living in Toronto as I was beyond excited when I found out I'd won a paperback copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I love reading memoirs, and We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir was certainly no exception. I couldn't put it down and finished it in just a few hours. Highly recommended. While I can't personally relate to the experiences of being a Muslim or a refugee, and have never had to confront the fear of ending an arranged marriage, I could relate to a lot of other things: living in Toronto as a young adult, the pain that comes from childhood trauma, the hurt that comes from bullying, realizing you're queer, growing up watching Full House and reading YM Magazine, listening to The Notorious BIG and TLC, looking up to Delores O'Riordan from the Cranberries, being obsessed with Japanese culture (which was a bonus/pleasant surprise that was super fun to read about ^.^), the love of books and libraries, the teenage experience of shopping for vinyl clothes at Le Chateau (for Samra, it was a shiny white trench coat; for me, it was shiny burgundy sneakers), and the importance of found family. As a white Canadian with Christian parents, I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Islam through the eyes and perspective of a queer Pakistani-Canadian woman who is close to my age. It was informative, insightful, and fascinating to learn what life was like for a child growing up as an Ahmadi Muslim in Lahore, Pakistan. Samra Habib is a passionate, brave, intelligent woman who is making a huge difference in the lives of queer Muslims -- she's the founder, editor, and photographer of Just Me and Allah: a Queer Muslim Photo Project -- and I have so much respect for her work. She studied journalism at Ryerson and is an incredibly talented writer whose articles have been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines (The New York Times, The Guardian, Vice, The Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, The National Post, Fashion magazine, etc.). She also travels to do speaking engagements as part of her activism, and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. This is an important book. Please read it if you get a chance ♥

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

    I picked this up on impulse--I saw it on some list or other, and decided this was something I could know more about. I found it interesting, and easy to read, but somehow bloodless--Habib chronicles many things that happened in her life, some of them very exciting, but she tells them like newspaper journalism. Although she was born in Pakistan, immigrated with her family to Canada as a young girl, had an Islamic arranged marriage, and has become an international photojournaist and activist, the I picked this up on impulse--I saw it on some list or other, and decided this was something I could know more about. I found it interesting, and easy to read, but somehow bloodless--Habib chronicles many things that happened in her life, some of them very exciting, but she tells them like newspaper journalism. Although she was born in Pakistan, immigrated with her family to Canada as a young girl, had an Islamic arranged marriage, and has become an international photojournaist and activist, the book often reads like the list in this sentence. Basically "this happened, this happened, this happened, I felt this way, this person made me excited, this happened." I recommend it as a view into a world I could know more about, and at the same time I was hoping to feel more of her story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cait Flanders

    "Being surrounded by great people isn't a fluke. It's almost like solving a math problem, finding variables, adding and subtracting to figure out a formula that works. Being surrounded by people who fuel you is intentional."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ameema Saeed

    4.5 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Truly a creative, writer/photographer/activist Samra’s spare memoir is rich in language and emotion. From her complicated relationship with her parents to her exploring and embracing her queer identity to finding her own personal relationship to her faith. “Being Muslim is one of the only absolutes about myself I can be sure of. It serves as an anchor when I’m lost at sea. It helps me come back to myself. It’s not something I can put on and take off like a garment. There’s no denying that my ide Truly a creative, writer/photographer/activist Samra’s spare memoir is rich in language and emotion. From her complicated relationship with her parents to her exploring and embracing her queer identity to finding her own personal relationship to her faith. “Being Muslim is one of the only absolutes about myself I can be sure of. It serves as an anchor when I’m lost at sea. It helps me come back to myself. It’s not something I can put on and take off like a garment. There’s no denying that my identity as a queer Muslim is the lens through which I see and engage with so many aspects of my daily life.” Samra’s life, so different from my own, yet aren’t we all seeking the same things - validation, connection and unconditional love?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Seriously! TEN stars! Gabon’s writing style is simplistic and direct, yet she depicts the complexities and interrelatedness of cross-sectional identities and discrimination so aptly! I feel as if I know this woman personally! And I would love to get to know her in person! What a story! I particularly appreciated her description of the various ways in which people have discovered or are discovering their own sexuality and spirituality. So very interesting. Change is possible. Never forget that! F Seriously! TEN stars! Gabon’s writing style is simplistic and direct, yet she depicts the complexities and interrelatedness of cross-sectional identities and discrimination so aptly! I feel as if I know this woman personally! And I would love to get to know her in person! What a story! I particularly appreciated her description of the various ways in which people have discovered or are discovering their own sexuality and spirituality. So very interesting. Change is possible. Never forget that! For everyone! Sometimes those we least expect to become more accepting of “other” or “different,” do!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Winner of the 2020 Canada Reads contest, this memoir is a coming of age, searching for your true self, and coming out as a queer Muslim. Samra Habib takes readers from her early life in Pakistan to her life in Toronto. Hands down a beautiful and honest memoir. Goodreads review published 12/09/20

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