A Woman Is No Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
A The Millions Most Anticipated Book of 2019
“Sometimes heroism is loud and dramatic. Other times, it is daring to listen to that quiet voice within and having the courage to follow it. In this story, we see inside the lives of three generations of Palestinian women living in America, struggling and suffering to hear that voice. Etaf Rum has done a great service by sharing these voices with us.” —Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times Bestselling Author of SECRET DAUGHTER and THE GOLDEN SON
Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this powerful debut—a heart-wrenching story of love, intrigue, courage, and betrayal that will resonate with women from all backgrounds, giving voice to the silenced and agency to the oppressed.
"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.
Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.
About the Author
Etaf Rum was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by Palestinian immigrants. She teaches college English literature in North Carolina, where she lives with her two children. She also runs the Instagram account @booksandbeans. A Woman Is No Man is her first novel.
“Through well-developed characters and a wonderfully paced narrative, [Rum] exposes the impact that the embedded patriarchy of some cultures can have on women while showing more broadly how years of shame, secrets, and betrayal can burden families across generations no matter what the cultural or religious affiliation. Highly recommended.”
— Library Journal, starred review
“A richly detailed and emotionally charged debut.”
“First-time novelist Rum’s setting… is rare: a Brooklyn Palestinian enclave in which reputation matters above all else…. The daughter of Brooklyn Palestinian immigrants, Rum was often told ‘a woman is no man.’ Overcoming her fear of community reprisal, she alchemizes that limiting warning into a celebration of ‘the strength and power of our women.’”
“Sometimes heroism is loud and dramatic. Other times, it is daring to listen to that quiet voice within and have the courage to follow it. In this story, we see inside the lives of three generations of Palestinian women living in America, struggling and suffering to hear that voice. Etaf Rum has done a great service by sharing these voices with us.”
— Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of SECRET DAUGHTER and THE GOLDEN SON
“A Woman Is No Man, bold as a drumbeat, banishes the repressive silence that haunts Isra and her spirited daughter, Deya. This tender tale of women soldiering through a barbed world is a clarion call and a work of literary bravery.”
— Nadia Hashimi, author of THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL and A HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS
“Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man is a shattering, revelatory tale of immigration, womanhood, and the cyclical impact of violence and oppression. In her unflinching story of both loss and hope, strewn with enthralling, vibrant characters, Rum has accomplished the extraordinary: a tale that bridges the domestic and the global, memory and future, the old world and the new. A spectacular debut.”
— Hala Alyan, author of SALT HOUSES
“A gripping portrait of three generations of Palestinian women whose narratives are heartfelt and unsettling. Rum writes with tender sensibility, creating characters with layers of complexity and depth. She gives these women what they most desire and deserve: a voice.”
— Frances de Pontes Peebles, author of THE AIR YOU BREATHE and THE SEAMSTRESS