Book Review: We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

Why should you read this book?

A couple of months ago, when I was looking up the upcoming releases, I felt extremely intrigued by We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib. I knew I had to read it. I wanted to understand what’s the journey like for a Muslim and queer person. And, I am so glad I read this book. Samra is such a brave and inspiring person and reading her memoir was such fulfilling and tender experience.

Samra Habib grew up in Pakistan as an Ahmadi Muslim but, after facing regular threats from Islamic extremists, her family moved to Canada as refugees. In that country, Samra dealt with new and different challenges: racism, bullying, poverty and an arranged marriage. In her twenties, she was already tired of living a life that was not hers, trying to be someone she was not. She started traveling around the world – from Tokyo to Berlin – dating whoever she wanted, exploring her sexuality at all levels. Back to Canada, she finds her true way back into Islam and into her family.

I think this is an excellent memoir. If you’re looking to read more about the LGBTQI+ community and the links with Islamism, get this book! This may feel random but Samra also addresses the role of academic discourse on the queer community. I loved reading what she had to say and I absolutely agree. She stated that the people within this community feel often displaced, alone and misunderstood. Unfortunately, scholars use jargon that is only accessible to their peers and not to the community itself. So, at the end, they still feel displaced even though the discourse is about them. The audiobook is also great, by the way!

I’d like to thank Viking Books for sending a review copy. You can buy the book here.

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Summary:

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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Book Details:

Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin Random House)
Published on: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272

4 stars

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