A Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist for Best Fiction and Best Debut • BookBrowse's Best Book of the Year • A Marie Claire Best Women's Fiction of the Year • A Real Simple Best Book of the Year • A PopSugar Best Book of the Year All Written By Females • A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A Washington Post 10 Books to Read in March • A Newsweek Best Book of the Summer • A USA Today Best Book of the Week • A Washington Book Review Difficult-To-Put-Down Novel • A Refinery 29 Best Books of the Month • A Buzzfeed News 4 Books We Couldn't Put Down Last Month • A New Arab Best Books by Arab Authors • An Electric Lit 20 Best Debuts of the First Half of 2019 • A The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2019
“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
The New York Times bestseller and Read with Jenna TODAY SHOW Book Club pick telling the story of three generations of Palestinian-American women struggling to express their individual desires within the confines of their Arab culture in the wake of shocking intimate violence in their community.
"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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Arab American author Etaf Rum’s debut unfolds in short, suspenseful chapters narrated by three generations of Palestinian women. Deya, a Harry Potter–loving Brooklyn teenager, faces pressure from her immigrant grandparents to abandon her academic ambitions for an arranged marriage. Frustrated by her lack of freedom and curious about her late parents’ past, Deya slowly discovers a painful legacy of domestic abuse that reaches back to the refugee camps of her family’s homeland. We were transfixed by Rum’s bold unveiling of conservative Muslim culture. Like the “taboo” novels her characters secretly turn to for escape, A Woman Is No Man successfully breaks the silence that enables oppression.
Rum's pleasing debut employs two timelines to recount the story of a Palestinian family living in America. In the early 1990s, Isra is married off and moves to Brooklyn to live with her husband, Adam, and his culturally traditional parents, Fareeda and Khaled. While Isra stays home to cook and clean, Adam spends all of his time running the family's deli, yet the couple is pressured by Fareeda to produce a son. Isra gives birth to four girls, however, fracturing family relations. The second story line jumps forward two decades to follow Deya, the oldest of Isra's daughters, as she faces the prospect of her own arranged marriage. Deya lives with Fareeda and Khaled, as her parents died in a reported car crash when she was young, and as she resists Fareeda's insistence on finding a suitor, preferring to attend college, Adam's long-absent sister, Sarah, reaches out to her niece. The pair meet clandestinely, and Sarah reveals a far darker family history than Deya suspected. Rum's short chapters crisscross timelines with the zippy pace of a thriller, yet repetitive scenes and unwieldy dialogue deflate the narrative. Though the execution is sometimes shaky, there's enough to make it worthwhile for fans of stories about family secrets.