This book is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, and even hard to read at times. But it addresses a very real problem for many people, regardless of their culture or background. The reasons behind domestic violence may vary, but it is an issue across all generations, cultures, socioeconomic standings, and backgrounds.
A Woman Is No Man specifically addresses a Palestinian-Arab family living in NYC. In this story, the woman are severely oppressed – a marriage is generally arranged for their daughters before they’ve even graduated high school, the women do not attend college, and they do not work once married. Truly, they are only necessary to cook, clean, and create children, specifically boys to carry on their name.
Isra is immediately a character that my heart was drawn to. Her sense of hopelessness and despair permeated the pages and I wanted to reach through the pages and give her some love which was so apparently lacking in her life. She tried to find joy in her daughters, but in a culture that values a son first and foremost, it is difficult for her to feel peaceful until she can give birth to a boy. What I love so much is that Rum was able to write her circumstances so well, and also give me the feeling of hope by the time I read the last page.
“Listening to Sarah, Isra wondered if this was what it meant to be an American: having a voice. She wished she knew how to speak her mind, wished she couldn’t said those things to Mama: that girls were just as valuable as boys, that their culture was unfair, and that Mama, as a woman, should’ve understood that. She wished she could’ve told Mama that she was sick of always being put second, of being shamed, disrespected, abused, and neglected unless there was cleaning or cooking to be done.”
And speaking of the last page, I was blown away by the pure genius Rum demonstrates in the ending! Without giving away any spoilers, trust me when I tell you that it was masterful! I liked the book before getting to the end, but that ending absolutely made the book for me! I had to reread it just to take in the full effect of it.
“Courage will get you everywhere, so long as you believe in yourself and what you stand for…you don’t know what your life will be like, and neither do I. The only thing I know for sure is that you alone are in control of your destiny. No one else. You have the power to make your life whatever you want it to be, and in order to do that, you have to find the courage to stand up for yourself, even if you’re standing alone.”
This would make a wonderful book club selection as there is LOTS to unpack here. Ultimately, this is a well-written book and it has placed Rum on my radar for future releases!
“My destiny is in my hands. Men make these sorts of choices all the time. Now I’m going to as well.”