Samra Habib's memoir, We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir, is this year's winner of Canada Reads. That may not have been everyone's first choice in the competition, but I am glad that it is going to get so much more attention and it certainly brings a Canadian story to light that needs to be told.
This was such a great read. I quite enjoyed it. I felt it was easy to follow and I think the most important thing about this book is, it is not the typical story we hear about, but this story exists and Samra has been brave enough to give it a voice.
Habib recounts her life as a child in Pakistan. She describes her family hiding to stay safe because they were Ahmadi Muslims, a minority religion that the Islamic extremists would kill. This tension and danger, along with sexism, homophobia, abuse and immigration are all topics that the author touches upon.
At the age of 10, Samra and her family move to Canada. At the age of 13 she finds out that she is to marry her first cousin in an arranged marriage. Samra struggles with the roles and expectations of women she grew up with and the fear of losing her identity as a Muslim if she comes out as queer. Habib's journey of finding her own identity, finding acceptance and forgiveness is heartbreaking and courageous. I love that she has used her story and passions in her activism and art and then this memoir.
Once Habib began sharing more about her adult life, she didn't give as much detail. There are also some characters, her parents and siblings that could have been more developed. I would like to know more of her mother's story for sure. However, I realize that this is Samra's story and not her mother's. This is my only critique because it left me wanting to know more about her life and her family. Maybe that means there is another memoir in the future.
I highly recommend this book and hope that Canadians (and others) do take the time to read it.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛🐛