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A Women Is No Man: a Novel

A Woman Is No Man - Etaf Rum
I know whatever I write about this book will not contain everything that I felt about this book. I should just write capital letters with exclamation marks adding in a mixture of facial expressions as that sums up how I felt reading this book. I had no expectations going into this book and as the two stories in the book converged into each other, I was swept away. The ending had me staring out the window, little tiny bumps spread across my arms and tears were falling down my face. The book was over but was it really over. There was nothing left for me to read but I couldn’t let these ladies go. And so, I stared out the window, waiting until something else came along to fill my mind.

The year was 1990, Isra in the kitchen with her mother cooking dinner, this has become her daily routine. Recently married, she’ll be moving from Palestine to America, where her new husband owns a deli. Isra is nervous about life in America. What will her marriage be like? What will her husband be like? Isra wants a romantic marriage with her husband yet she hardly even knows the man that she married. She’s hoping that her American marriage will be different than the one that her mother and father have. As she discusses her concerns, it was sad listening to her mother’s words. “Love each other? What does love have to do marriage? You think your father and I love each other?” After listening to her mother’s remarks, she’s hopeful that by leaving the country, her marriage will be different than her mothers and the abuse that her mother endures as a wife, will not follow her.

The year is 2008, Deya is one of four sisters living with their grandparents. Deya is the oldest and grandmother is on the hunt, trying to find a suitor for her. Although times have changed the girls still need to preserve their culture. Deya is not ready for marriage and would rather continue on with her education but according to Islamic traditions, Deya must get ready to become a wife and mother. It’s a battle of values, family, freedom and principles that Deya struggles with as she enters adulthood.

I found it fascinating to read about the idea of arranged marriages currently in our society and the implications of how the status of a wife remained the same for many of these women. Isra and Deya were both dealing with the notion of being in an arranged marriage. If that wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the idea of what being a wife really meant and how that differed from what they really wanted.

As the chapters fluctuated between these two women, Isla story tore at me. She pictured America to be a wonderful place, an opportunity for her yet when she arrives, she realizes that they’ll be sharing a house with her in-laws and his siblings. The romantic marriage that she hoped to find, will have to be on the quiet-side, as everyone is sharing the same house. This was just the beginning of Isla’s spiral tale of what America had to offer her. Deya story was different because she was a fighter. She used what she had to fight back, even if it meant further consequences for her. Cheering for her, I pushed her. I wanted her to push the envelope until she couldn’t push it anymore. She was ready to accept whatever happened at the end. I loved how the author made the stories come together also.

I felt exhausted as I closed this book. As they stood there, I fell in line with them, just waiting. I felt tired yet there was this energy and excitement that I felt within me. What was next? I highly recommend this book. I can’t wait to see what else this author writes.