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We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

por Samra Habib

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15911135,695 (3.55)27
Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges- bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space-in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit-became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved. So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Hereis a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one's truest self.… (mais)
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3.5 stars

Samra Habib was still a girl when her entire family came to Canada from Pakistan. They were a part of a minority group of Muslims who were discriminated against in their own country. As she grew up, she knew she didn’t see things the same as her parents and she did not want to marry her cousin in the arranged marriage that had been planned. In fact, she wasn’t interested in men at all, and thought she may be asexual. As an adult, she came to realize that she was, in fact, queer. And she learned how to reconcile that with her Muslim faith.

This was good. It did move quickly and it felt like it skipped forward fast in some cases. It was interesting to read about, though. Have to admit (though that wasn’t the entire purpose of the book!), I found the first half more interesting - the parts that focused on her trying to fit in after she immigrated. ( )
  LibraryCin | Aug 14, 2021 |
This was such an honest book. I felt like I'd made a friend by the end of it. The author was funny, resilient and totally her own person.

My review of 'We Have Always Been Here' by Samra Habib is up on the John C Adams Reviews website now!

https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/single-post/john-c-adams-reviews-we-have-alway...

#WeHaveAlwaysBeenHere #SamraHabib #LGBT #LGBTQIA+ #Lesbian #Muslim #Queer #woman #memoir #debut #Pakistan #Ahmadis #JohnCAdamsReviews #JohnCAdams #MondayMusings #Nonfiction #Book #Review #Reviews ( )
  johncadamssf | Jul 6, 2021 |
I decided to read/listen to this book when it was chosen as the winner of the 2020 Canada Reads competition. My pick of the books on the short list was Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is, I still think, better than this one but I did find this book very interesting.

Habib was raised in Lahore, Pakistan as part of the Ahmadi sect (which I had never heard of until this book). Members of this sect were quite often threatened and abused by Muslims of other sects. The situation became so dire that the family applied to enter Canada as refugees. Canada was relatively safe but Samra was often bullied at school. While she was still young she entered into an arranged marriage with a cousin who had come to Canada with Samra's family. She eventually told her family that she did not want to become a traditional Muslim wife and the marriage was dissolved, but Samra was treated as an outcast in her mosque. She moved in with a male friend from high school which was equally as shocking to her family. So Samra and the friend got married which made the situation marginally better. However, Samra was realizing that she was attracted to women and she started referring to herself as queer. She didn't come out to her parents for some time and when she did they didn't accept her sexuality immediately. Because of her love for them eventually they made amends. Samra also found a Muslim mosque that accepted queer folk as members which helped her. Samra also learned to accept herself as she worked on a photography project documenting other Queer Muslims. She said in an interview on CBC that writing this book was key to understanding herself better. Hopefully it will also be of benefit to other youth dealing with their sexuality. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 18, 2020 |
Habib was born in Pakistan and spent her early years in Lahore. As a member of the Ahmadis, a sect within Islam but one persecuted by other Moslems, she faced injury and even death. Eventually her family moved to Canada for safety reasons and settled in Toronto. Habib's parents organized her marriage when she was a child and she married the man when she was 16 years old. As he indicated that he believed a husband must beat his wife in order to control her, Samra rebelled and the marriage was dissolved.

It took many years until she accepted the fact she was gay and much of the volume is the trials she went through until she came to that point. Her relationship with her family who were very devout Muslims takes up important portions of the book.

Based on her descriptions of life in Pakistan, I cannot say I have any urge to go there. A reading of this volume does give the read a chance at understanding some of the power of Islam. Despite the negative treatment she experienced because of her religion, she still loved it as it provided her with comfort and support.

This was the winner of the 2020 Canada Reads. ( )
1 vote lamour | Nov 17, 2020 |
As a young girl in Pakistan, Samra Habib faced discrimination because her family belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which is deemed heretical by many other Muslims. When she was a teenager in Canada, Habib faced discrimination for being a refugee, a Muslim, and a South Asian woman. All of these experiences, together with an upbringing by deeply religious parents, meant that Habib internalised a lot of negative messages about gender, sexuality, and her body. Following a disastrous marriage at 16 to a first cousin, and a second failed marriage a few years later, Habib came to an understanding of herself as a queer feminist and over several years learned out to reconcile those aspects of her identity with her Muslim faith.

This is a very necessary memoir, conveying the kind of experiences which are rarely foregrounded in mainstream conversations. Yet there's something about Habib's style of writing which prevents We Have Always Been Here from having as much as impact as I think it could have. Perhaps a side-effect of her training as a journalist, Habib is slightly distant from her own story. We are told about, rather than shown, some major moments in her life; some of her family members and most of her romantic partners remain blurry figures on the periphery of the narrative. Fair enough. There is no requirement for a memoir writer to gut themselves on the page, let alone the people in their life. But I think the book could have been effective even within certain boundaries if Habib hadn't frequently deployed the glossy, homogenised jargon I think of TherapySpeak (you know, everyone's Living Their Truth in order to Be Their Authentic Self). ( )
  siriaeve | Jun 17, 2020 |
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Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges- bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space-in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit-became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved. So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Hereis a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one's truest self.

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