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Book Review: A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

I’d seen this book everywhere for a while now, and was just drawn to it. It’s been one of the most anticipated reads for 2019 and available now!

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

Genre: Fiction/Domestic Fiction

BUG Rating: 4.5/5

Overall: Heartbreaking, Captivating and yet hopeful. This book went way above my expectations. I absolutely loved it. Etaf managed to seamlessly take us through different periods of time, through the view of three Palestinian- American women, who in their own way were each amazing. The storyline is set deep in a patriarchal culture, which they are all trying to navigate their own place within. This book is totally unforgettable, and Etaf is clearly a writer to watch!

That was the real reason abuse was so common, Isra thought for the first time. Not only because there was no government protection, but because women were raised to believe they were worthless, shameful creatures who deserved to get beaten, who were made to depend on the men who beat them.


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.

Just wow. I am really going to struggle to express just how good I thought this book was. I was so surprised. I wanted to read A woman is no man, after just seeing it all over social media. I wanted to know what the hype was about. Nothing could have prepared me for the rollercoaster of a ride that this book took me on!

The story follows the lives, through different years, of three generations of Palestinian – American women. The main characters are just so wonderfully created. All with their own flaws, strengths and amazing personalities. All of them have been through so much.

I absolutely love Isra. Her story starts in Palestine, at the young age of 17 she is married off by her parents to Adam, who lives in Brooklyn, NY. Isra is young, naive, a dreamer, a romantic, all of which contribute to her weakness and inability to make her voice heard. Life in America is not how Isra thought it would be, and marriage was even less what she thought it would be. You can’t help but feel a connection with Isra, she has a loveable personality and she wants to be accepted, and loved by her husband and new family. 

Which leads us to Fareeda. Fareeda, is Isra’s mother in law, who’s life revolves around looking after the home, her husband and ensuring her boys are married off to the perfect wives, (to bear grandsons – appearances are everything to her), all whilst trying to keep her daughter, Sara, on the right track and preparing her to become the perfect Arab wife. Fareeda appears to be a hard, unforgiving, strong woman, but deep down, we get to see, she’s broken. A past that haunts her, though her own point of view chapters in the book (which comes in much later), you get insights into the horrific, challenging life she has had herself. 

Etaf’s ability to write from such different perspectives, really shows immense talent.

The final main character the book centres around is Deya, Isra’s first daughter who is now a teenager. Deya is a strong willed young girl, who does not want to conform to the traditions imposed by her grandmother – so you can imagine what fireworks happen!

Deya wants more for herself, and more than anything Deya wants to know what happened, she will stop at nothing to uncover the truth about her parents.

I literally couldn’t put this book down, I loved every single page of it. The writing was beautiful, clever and gave just the right amount of gripping details to keep me hooked.

It was a sad, emotional read. I definitely felt ‘heavy hearted’ during the time I was reading this. It really pulls at your heart strings. The terrifying moments in this book these women suffered under a patriarchal culture, were just shocking, and still happen. The story was devastating yet still hopeful…. and OMG what an ending!

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