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We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

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How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? 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 How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? 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 Here is 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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How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? 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 How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist? 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 Here is 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.

30 review for We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    An amazing memoir. Habib recounts her childhood as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where her family had to hide to stay safe in the face of Islamic extremists and then how this pattern of hiding combined with sexism and homophobia followed her to Canada, where she felt forced to hide her femininity and queerness. Beautiful thoughts about art, activism, spirituality, and more. Passages about her finding her people, other queer Muslims, made me cry. I think my only quibble is I wanted a little bit mo An amazing memoir. Habib recounts her childhood as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where her family had to hide to stay safe in the face of Islamic extremists and then how this pattern of hiding combined with sexism and homophobia followed her to Canada, where she felt forced to hide her femininity and queerness. Beautiful thoughts about art, activism, spirituality, and more. Passages about her finding her people, other queer Muslims, made me cry. I think my only quibble is I wanted a little bit more in terms of character. A few people, like her siblings, felt too opaque, but perhaps she intentionally didn't write much about them. Full review on my blog.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Basma

    I have been a fan of Samra Habib's work since a few years back. I think I first stumbled upon her writing in The Guardian and later found myself on tumblr looking at her photo projects. So you can say that I went into this with a little bias and curiosity to know more about her, her work and why she ended up writing a memoir. I've had this book on my to-read list since I first heard it was coming out in 2017. So I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy on Netgalley and I think I'll get a co I have been a fan of Samra Habib's work since a few years back. I think I first stumbled upon her writing in The Guardian and later found myself on tumblr looking at her photo projects. So you can say that I went into this with a little bias and curiosity to know more about her, her work and why she ended up writing a memoir. I've had this book on my to-read list since I first heard it was coming out in 2017. So I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy on Netgalley and I think I'll get a copy once it's out. I am still unsure about how to discuss this book and all the points mentioned because I have a lot of thoughts.. but I'll just say how it made me feel as this seems easier than analyzing. This is a book about Samra Habib's life and upbringing, her work and her queerness, and how she ended up being in the place she is now. There is a lot of internal struggle and rebellion that comes through while reading this that feels so raw and so much like what myself and the people I know go through- to differing degrees. Despite being of different sects and from different countries, the struggle is the same for those of us who see things a little differently than black and white. There's a part in this book where she voices her concern about how narrating her life opens up the door for white people to criticize and point fingers at her way of life and how she fees like she is feeding into the narrative they lavishly consume and what the media has always portrayed. And even if there is truth in that, even if someone can say I told you so, for the other people out there who still live in similar societies which she has managed to leave, this feels like safety. This feels like being heard and feels like someone out there actually knows what it's like to struggle so profoundly to find a place within oneself and one's religion. Voices and books like this offer a sort of comfort that can be difficult to find or trust. I have a lot of favorite lines in this book but one of them that stands out is when her brother asks her why she wants to identify with being a Muslim when her queer identity is not always welcomed and why is she trying so hard to make peace with it.. Won't spoil what she said just so you can read the book but it sums up what a lot of go through. This book gets a 5 star because I want more books and more voices like that out there in the book industry and on people's shelves. I however thought the first part of the book was much stronger. The latter half when she delves into her life as a grown-up and her work and finding peace within herself and her religion felt too rushed and I felt like she was jumping from one thought to the next. But it is nevertheless great and it was the right book at the right time for me. I would recommend getting acquainted with her work before reading the book though, whether previous articles or her photo projects because I felt it kind of paves the way into why she wrote this memoir. [Around the world pick for Pakistan.] (I received a free e-book copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meena Khan

    This book is very misleading if you are interested in learning about Islam. Please don't use this book as your reference point. For example, when the writer describes the differences between Shia and Sunni muslims, she does it in a haste without any real, religious knowledge. That whole account sounds fake and comes across as if it was just inserted as a way to use Islam to promote the book. Why talk about Shia Muslims if she does not know anything about their teachings? It was very offensive to This book is very misleading if you are interested in learning about Islam. Please don't use this book as your reference point. For example, when the writer describes the differences between Shia and Sunni muslims, she does it in a haste without any real, religious knowledge. That whole account sounds fake and comes across as if it was just inserted as a way to use Islam to promote the book. Why talk about Shia Muslims if she does not know anything about their teachings? It was very offensive towards Shia Muslims! If she needed to include that passage, she at least could have found more information online through Google. One would think she had done some research before publishing the book, but she clearly hasn't or couldn't care less. It would have been better for the writer if she had just focused on talking about her life as a queer individual. It feels as if she just talks about Islam, even when she no longer is a practicing Muslim, to just get attention and make some money. It is appalling and offensive to muslims that this woman chooses to use Islam to promote her book and her lifestyle even when she clearly is not a practicing muslim or follows the religious teaching herself. What a shame! Plus, how old is she? 30 something. I mean, are you are a Syrian refugee who has survived gang rape and other atrocities or are you Malala Yousafzai who took a bullet in the head as a consequence for promoting education in Swat, Pakistan? Meaning, there are a lot more powerful stories of survival and resilience written by practising muslim women, this is not one of them. At best, it is a memoir of a young woman who has a comfortable life in Canada despite being a queer woman and an immigrant. Another point is that the writer clearly lives a privileged life yet depicts herself as a victim. As pointed out by someone else that she is not poor to begin with for she frequently travels, has a good source of income and does not come across as a victim from any angle. Therefore, her whole book comes across as being dishonest and misleading as well as using the religion of Islam to make more money (perhaps to afford more privileged traveling across the globe).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ameema Saeed

    4.5 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    While I enjoyed learning about Ms. Habib and would love to see her photography, I would not say this book was much of an exploration as stated in the summary. For despite being presented as a memoir, I felt it was much more of an objective stating of the facts of Ms. Habib's life and generalized information about difficulties in the Pakistan and Muslim cultures, I did not feel like I finished this book knowing Ms. Habib. While this disconnect might be due to her need to protect herself, it does While I enjoyed learning about Ms. Habib and would love to see her photography, I would not say this book was much of an exploration as stated in the summary. For despite being presented as a memoir, I felt it was much more of an objective stating of the facts of Ms. Habib's life and generalized information about difficulties in the Pakistan and Muslim cultures, I did not feel like I finished this book knowing Ms. Habib. While this disconnect might be due to her need to protect herself, it does a disservice in a memoir. Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for a copy of the book. This review is my own opinion.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurie • The Baking Bookworm

    4.5 STARS - This is an honest and revealing coming-of-age memoir of a queer Muslim woman's struggle with identity, faith and family. Beginning with her childhood as a young Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan and continuing into her adult life as a successful photojournalist in Toronto, Habib describes how her experiences, beliefs and relationships shaped the woman she has become. After her family moves to Canada to flee religious persecution, she struggles to claim her identity as a strong and successful 4.5 STARS - This is an honest and revealing coming-of-age memoir of a queer Muslim woman's struggle with identity, faith and family. Beginning with her childhood as a young Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan and continuing into her adult life as a successful photojournalist in Toronto, Habib describes how her experiences, beliefs and relationships shaped the woman she has become. After her family moves to Canada to flee religious persecution, she struggles to claim her identity as a strong and successful artist/journalist/activist, daughter and queer Muslim woman who wants to be recognized by her faith and society at large. Habib shines a light on Pakistani culture, Muslim faith and Canada's 'multiculturalism' that has given Canadians a false sense of inclusion while continuing to marginalize groups of people by promoting our passivity for queer rights, particularly LGBTQ people of colour. "Sometimes Canadians live in a bubble, seduced by the illusion of equality. Many didn't see the need for a project highlighting the struggles of queer Muslims because they were under the impression that things were great for all LGBTQ people in the country. " "When I launched my photo project, someone actually asked me if there was even a need for it, because "things are so great in Canada for queers. What's left to fight for?" I found this to be a compelling page-turner that is a good pick for the LGBTQ community, their allies and especially those who may need more enlightening. While I enjoyed Habib's voice and found it to be a well-written book, I have one wee criticism -- I would have liked more page time focused on her life as she began to embrace her queer identity. This aspect felt a bit rushed. This book will promote good discussion, making it a clear choice for book clubs. By sharing her story as a queer Muslim woman who loves her faith and wants to be her authentic self, Habib has opened a dialogue that will hopefully validate those who have similar struggles and encourage those of us without similar experiences to sympathize with people who continue to feel unseen and underrepresented in our society. Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Viking Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    3.5 stars overall, although the first third of the book is considerably stronger, fresher, and more interesting than the rest.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    There were moments during this book that I felt a little bit nervous (like any time the author mentioned trans people), but overall this was a beautiful portrayal of self-discovery. I have read a lot about queer Christians, but to read about the author's relationship with Islam forced me to confront my attitudes towards organized religion in a way I hadn't before. That said, it also confuses me that there was a lot of time spent on the struggles of poverty, but it seems to me that once Habib was There were moments during this book that I felt a little bit nervous (like any time the author mentioned trans people), but overall this was a beautiful portrayal of self-discovery. I have read a lot about queer Christians, but to read about the author's relationship with Islam forced me to confront my attitudes towards organized religion in a way I hadn't before. That said, it also confuses me that there was a lot of time spent on the struggles of poverty, but it seems to me that once Habib was in a more stable financial situation, we no longer got to understand how she was able to afford so many trips abroad, for example. I think a more honest account of people's financial situations -- especially creative people -- would be valuable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Sorensen

    This is an important book to read as a parent. I actually connected so deeply to the parents, as they navigated how to make their children feel supported for who they are. They make the mistakes I don’t want to make. It’s a powerful and impactful memoir, and I’m glad it was written.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hamza Jahanzeb

    Samra Habib provide an honest, raw and gripping account of her life from Pakistan, escaping the clutches of religious intolerance, into a new world in Canada where she and her family sought refuge. It is brilliantly told, with an absolute clear narrative that reads like it's being told to you by a nearby friend. The way in which Habib reflects on the earlier years in her life, provide for great insight into what life was like being the Ahmadi Muslin in an intolerant Pakistan. Her relationships, Samra Habib provide an honest, raw and gripping account of her life from Pakistan, escaping the clutches of religious intolerance, into a new world in Canada where she and her family sought refuge. It is brilliantly told, with an absolute clear narrative that reads like it's being told to you by a nearby friend. The way in which Habib reflects on the earlier years in her life, provide for great insight into what life was like being the Ahmadi Muslin in an intolerant Pakistan. Her relationships, trauma and life events also cause her to become the woman she is, and I really enjoyed finding a memoir in which I could relate on so many levels. It is a necessary read for all LGBTQI+ identifying folk, as well as allies. Or even bigots. I can't tell you how urgently needed this book; do read this book, re-read it (as I found myself doing) for we often lack on how identities intersect, and this book provided me with so much hope. It resonated with my own journey, and that of my own Queer friends. There are parts where I sobbed - others where I felt like I was a cheshire cat cackling on the tube. Ultimately, this is a joyful uplifting tale, with a gorgeously seamless narrative - I can't recommend this book to you all, and it is in my top 3 books (so far!) of 2019. Get yourself a copy pre-ordered now - as I think this will be a summer read must-have!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lacey

    I had to take some time to process my thoughts on this book. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes and all thoughts expressed in this review are my own. This book left me in tears. Like, all out sobbing tears. I’m so glad that this memoir was written. I have gained a new perspective on what being a queer Muslim looks like. I truly believe in representation and own voices literature because it provides a way to bring everyone to the table and allows those marginalized I had to take some time to process my thoughts on this book. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes and all thoughts expressed in this review are my own. This book left me in tears. Like, all out sobbing tears. I’m so glad that this memoir was written. I have gained a new perspective on what being a queer Muslim looks like. I truly believe in representation and own voices literature because it provides a way to bring everyone to the table and allows those marginalized voices to speak. This book also provides a warning to Canada to keep fighting for all LGBTQIA+ people: “ Witnessing politically minded queers in North Carolina, many of whom were also Muslim, was especially revelatory for me, because I often found people back home in Toronto to be apathetic and apolitical, perhaps a result of the comfort and ambivalence that advanced queer rights can breed. Many Canadians who enjoyed the fruits of decades of activism did not see any need to advocate for the rights of queer and trans people of colour. In my experience, progress in many circles had given way to passivity. When I launched my photo project, someone actually asked me if there was even a need for it, because “things are so great in Canada for queers. What’s left to fight for?” One mustn’t sit back and think everything is great because gay marriage is recognized. My heart broke when I read “ When I photographed my subjects in Istanbul, they asked that I not show their faces because they feared for their safety.” It is truly devastating how some countries view being LGBTQIA+ as dangerous or something that isn’t okay. It’s enraging. The quote that sent tears down my face was when the author told her father that she is queer. Samra and her father had a difficult relationship since immigrating to Canada, and when she told him that she was queer, he responded “You can’t help it,” he said. “It’s just who you are.” Being seen for who you are is what we are all looking for. I recommend We Have Always Been Here . I deeply recommend it to those seeking for a new perspective on LGBTQIA+ . This memoir gives a marginalized voice a seat at the table.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    “Our understanding of the interior lives of those who are not like us is contingent on their ability to articulate themselves in a language we know. The further removed people are from proficiency in that language, the less likely they are to be understood as complex individuals. The audience often fills in the blanks with their own preconceptions.” (175) Although marketed as a queer Muslim memoir, it takes awhile to get there. It’s also a memoir of seeking asylum, a story of self-discovery, and “Our understanding of the interior lives of those who are not like us is contingent on their ability to articulate themselves in a language we know. The further removed people are from proficiency in that language, the less likely they are to be understood as complex individuals. The audience often fills in the blanks with their own preconceptions.” (175) Although marketed as a queer Muslim memoir, it takes awhile to get there. It’s also a memoir of seeking asylum, a story of self-discovery, and a religious quest. Basically, though, it’s a slow crumbling of a whole sand castle of stereotypes. Assumptions about Islam, Muslim women, Muslim men, Mosques, Pakistan, Immigrants, Lesbians and Queer folk, Canada, devoutly Religious people: all of the assumptions you might have about these topics are pretty well washed away, leaving the overwhelming impression that stereotypes are really just a garbage way of thinking about a thing. As far as the story itself, I thought it was chatty and honest without seeming too salacious or melodramatic. The parents are given a lot of grace, and I came away with an overwhelming sense of Samra Habib’s ability to empathize. She talks about her parents as real and complex people. Despite her mother’s attempt at arranging a marriage for her 16-year-old daughter and her father’s temper, their rigidity did not extend to shunning their daughter as she shared more of herself with them. Her mother had her own troubles, also. One of my favorite bits is from her mother, who loved books: “...it helps to find solace in the larger universe, especially when your internal world isn’t hospitable.” (187) Her ongoing relationship with her parents and her religion take center stage. I do wish there had been more about her siblings, but that’s a pretty minor quibble. Basically, I was completely taken in by this memoir.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sami Eerola

    Very moving and inspiring tale of a Muslim girl that finds feminism and then the courage to assert her true identity as a queer Muslim. This is not just a autobiography, but a great book about balancing conflicting identities and loyalties. How to protect your Muslim family from racism and at the same time fight for the rights of the LGBTQ-Muslims inside the Muslim community and outside of it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    This is a valuable book, and while I liked it I wished that it went deeper. I feel like there's so much about the author I don't know. Maybe she wrote as much as she was able to at this time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Isabell Ona bike

    Easily one of the best books I’ve read all year. Habib’s story is compelling and inspiring, and her writing is magnificent. A very, very good read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    I picked up this memoir on a whim and am super glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very rewarding reading from a point of view so different from my own and seeing how Habib's faith intersected with her sexuality. I do think that the narrative was a little too loose and didn't grab me as soon about halfway through, but I recognize the merit in writing this memoir.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laila

    Not sure what to make of this book. It is certainly not a memoir, but more of a paint-by-numbers autobiography (I was born on such and such date, when I was young this happened, then that happened..., etc). And to that end, who is Samra Habib, why should we be interested in *her* life story? Her relationship with her parents, husband, etc. seem very ho-hum. Welcome to being a teenager/young adult navigating life. The most interesting section of her book is her art project about queer Muslims.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Johannes C

    Have you ever watched or listened to something that you just could not stop thinking about all day? A stubborn all-consuming spectre that clings to every other vacant thought that slides through your consciousness as you conduct the banal tasks of your day. This book was precisely that sort of encounter for me — which is not what I was expecting upon reading the book’s description (I think this book deserves a better back-cover synopsis). This was just such a delight to read. The rich constructi Have you ever watched or listened to something that you just could not stop thinking about all day? A stubborn all-consuming spectre that clings to every other vacant thought that slides through your consciousness as you conduct the banal tasks of your day. This book was precisely that sort of encounter for me — which is not what I was expecting upon reading the book’s description (I think this book deserves a better back-cover synopsis). This was just such a delight to read. The rich construction of details Habib conjures from her childhood in Pakistan were so gorgeously articulated. The smells of spices and wafting aromas of food — I had the stupidest mouthwatering smile on my face reading those chapters. Just recalling this right now, I’m starting to feel very hungry. Habib’s stories of being a young immigrant in Canada struck such an indelible chord for me. One of my closest friends was born in Pakistan, and many of my old high school friends are Muslim (one of them being among the first to call me out on the homophobia I had internalized under an evangelical Christian childhood). I witnessed some of the same racism that Habib talked about during her middle school years in Toronto. I don’t know what makes children so cruel to one another, but I’m sure racism is often something children inadvertently learn from their parents and the media. I have often heard that more educated people are not less racist than people who lacked educational opportunities, they are just smarter about hiding it. The harrowing struggles internal to Habib’s family were also very gripping and haunting. Whenever, I had to pause reading, I just couldn’t stop thinking about all the struggles she went through. I certainly know I couldn’t have gone through even a portion of the things she describes in this book. She seems like a remarkably strong person. I can only imagine that I would have crumbled into infinite resignation under similar tumultuous moments, but Habib just finds her way into embracing her queerness and exploring it in such a heartwarming fashion. Her stories of chosen family were so beautiful, and it just makes me smile so much thinking about how she didn’t give up and how all those wonderful people helped her through. And her description of the affirming Unity Mosque was one of my favourite parts of the book. It makes me feel happy that communities like this exist in Toronto. There’s a cafe in Mississauga called Studio.89 that has been involved in work like this, and I think it’s so important to emphasize the diversity within faith traditions and how they intersect with LGBTQ2SIA+ communities of colour. Communities like this also end up provoking such necessary art too, like Habib’s photography project featuring queer Muslims from all over the world. Definitely the sort of stories that most people don’t hear enough about. I’m very interested in Southeast Asia, as most of extended family lives in the region. In some of my readings I’ve encountered a rich history in Indonesia of the Bugis peoples. I am familiar with the word Bugis by way of Bugis Street in Singapore, known for its fantastic food and once home to Singapore's most fabulous drag scene. Anyways, the Bugis are peoples who have blended Islam with their traditional beliefs since the the 17th century, and they are known for actually having five gender categories. I was reading a review of a book called “Gender Diversity in Indonesia: Sexuality, Islam and Queer Selves” (focused on Bugis gender expressions in Indonesia), and it reads: “The book is punctuated with riveting ethnographic anecdotes that debunk any assumptions of a uniform Islamic conservatism or heteronormativity—including an opening vignette of a Muslim fashion show for calabai who have returned from the hajj and a description of officials from the regional Ministry of Religion boasting of the numbers of transgendered Bugis who make the pilgrimage yet also joking about their sex toys.” It made me see Southeast Asia very differently, and it’s fascinating because a lot of the Western colonial trade routes and ports were based on the existing Bugis maritime trade in the region, and to think that such a rich tradition of gender and sexuality survived European colonialism is remarkable to me. But as one of Habib’s photography subjects says: “we have always been here”. Anyways, I think it was great to hear such an intimate rendering of a life lived by someone who embraced both their Muslim faith tradition and their queerness in a locale as familiar to me as Toronto, and has helped others to do the same. This book just made me really happy and gives me a lot of hope. Also Habib has a great sense of humour. I’m smiling right now because of her. Thank you, Samra Habib.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Craig Rowland

    We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir was written by Samra Habib, a queer-identified Muslimah who came to Canada with her family from Pakistan. Habib is a journalism graduate who can indeed tell a good story. It was hard to put this book down and the pages rapidly turned themselves. From a failed Muslim marriage to her older first cousin to a Canadian marriage to a different man, Habib broke out of her hetero stranglehold to embrace her inner queerness. She dropped the hijab yet did no We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir was written by Samra Habib, a queer-identified Muslimah who came to Canada with her family from Pakistan. Habib is a journalism graduate who can indeed tell a good story. It was hard to put this book down and the pages rapidly turned themselves. From a failed Muslim marriage to her older first cousin to a Canadian marriage to a different man, Habib broke out of her hetero stranglehold to embrace her inner queerness. She dropped the hijab yet did not abandon Islam, finding a queer Muslim community in Toronto. This is a memoir of a young woman, and I hope she continues to write about her life journey. She has told an inspirational story in her struggle to come out amidst a religious community that often shuns queer existence. Habib told her story with unflinching honesty and candour, yet I found her coming-out revelation to be an unexpected bellyflop. Sure, we all knew she was going to come out of the closet sometime. When talking about wearing makeup, especially lipstick, Habib revealed: "The truth was, I wasn't wearing it for the boys." Habib did talk about her gay friends, lesbian mentors, her first lesbian sexual experiences and where she hung out: "It was surreal to be in a gay bar in Tokyo speaking in my native tongue with a gay Pakistani man from Beijing--like finding a missing puzzle piece under the coffee table while spring cleaning. I wondered where I'd find the rest of the pieces." Yet all of a sudden, at the beginning of a new chapter, Habib became free. I expected more of an anguishing experience in revealing the truth to herself first as she shed her beardish male companions. Not all coming-out stories are the same of course, yet Habib's was akin to flipping the page and finding out that she was now an out woman. Habib's faith in Islam gave her the courage to come out to her mother: "In that moment, I wondered what made me any different from those who projected their own judgments onto Muslim women who wore the hijab or the burka. I had no evidence that she would disapprove. Never in my life had I caught her saying anything remotely homophobic or transphobic. And she wouldn't have, because to her, being hateful in any way goes against her religious beliefs. This was a woman who would recite the motto of the Ahmadiyya community--Love for all, hatred for none--whenever someone directed an Islamophobic remark at us on the street or in shopping malls or grocery stores." Thus when Habib did come out, her mother told her "Okay. I still love you."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    "The reality is this identity has shaped the way I see the world, and the way others see me, in a way that is beyond my control. Being Muslim is one of the only absolutes about myself I can be sure of. It serves as an anchor when I'm lost at sea. It helps me come back to myself, and it leads me to others who struggle to reconcile seemingly disparate parts of themselves. There's no denying that my identity as a queer Muslim is the lens through which I see and engage with so many aspects of my dai "The reality is this identity has shaped the way I see the world, and the way others see me, in a way that is beyond my control. Being Muslim is one of the only absolutes about myself I can be sure of. It serves as an anchor when I'm lost at sea. It helps me come back to myself, and it leads me to others who struggle to reconcile seemingly disparate parts of themselves. There's no denying that my identity as a queer Muslim is the lens through which I see and engage with so many aspects of my daily life." • Thoughts~ Habib today is a writer, photographer and activist. In her memoir which is wonderfully astute, she openly shares her journey from childhood into her adulthood with such integrity. • Her and her family immigrated to Canada from Pakistan for safety once arriving in Canada she faced a whole set of new challenges. From racism to bullying, poverty, and an arranged marriage to her cousin. She would turn to books for solace and joy. She is so honest about her culture. How men and women's traditional roles are. And how that just never felt right. Starting a spark of feminism in her. • The traumas of her childhood and the pressure of her culture weighing her down she wouldnt come out as queer till years later. But once she does she begins to shed the layers of her childhood traumas and "cultural baggage" to be herself. A part of all this prompts her to create an on going photography project to find other queer muslims around the world. Photographing them, hearing their stories, and offering support and friendship. • This is an inspiring and authentic memoir of being a queer muslim woman. I enjoyed this much! A must read! • For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    A rare read. This book read me as much as I read it - I felt Samra was speaking directly to me in passage, and dropping heartful wisdom on every page. I devoured it in a day. I read it all day, long into the night. I feel that the rating system is deficient to express how much I loved this book. It's a 1o star. Perspective-shifter. World-shaker. And the writing is beautiful, and makes you feel like you're sitting on Samra's couch, drinking tea and hearing her life story unfold with head-on hones A rare read. This book read me as much as I read it - I felt Samra was speaking directly to me in passage, and dropping heartful wisdom on every page. I devoured it in a day. I read it all day, long into the night. I feel that the rating system is deficient to express how much I loved this book. It's a 1o star. Perspective-shifter. World-shaker. And the writing is beautiful, and makes you feel like you're sitting on Samra's couch, drinking tea and hearing her life story unfold with head-on honesty. I wasn't expecting whatever this book turned out to be. It's hard to classify, but if this was a novel, I'd say this character had the most incredible, sweepingly revolutionary character arc. From an insular childhood in Pakistan, marked by trauma and her family's need to keep their Muslim sect secret, to adjusting to life in a bustling, racist and homophobic Canada, Samra takes us on a journey through her self discovery. Her ownership of the queer, muslim identity is inspiring to any reader, regardless of how you choose to identify. Radical self acceptance lifts us all up and made me wonder how I can embody more aspects of my identity that scare me. Thank you for this book, Samra. And please, friends, read these words. They'll change you, if you open your heart to them.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I managed to misinterpret the description of this to such an extent that I spent the first half of the book wondering when the author was going to start talking about queerness. But her narrative of her experiences growing up Ahmadi (a religious minority) in Lahore, then fleeing the country to settle as a refugee with her family in Toronto, and trying to navigate being a Muslim immigrant Pakistani girl -- dealing with school bullies, getting into an arranged religious marriage and then a divorce I managed to misinterpret the description of this to such an extent that I spent the first half of the book wondering when the author was going to start talking about queerness. But her narrative of her experiences growing up Ahmadi (a religious minority) in Lahore, then fleeing the country to settle as a refugee with her family in Toronto, and trying to navigate being a Muslim immigrant Pakistani girl -- dealing with school bullies, getting into an arranged religious marriage and then a divorce before graduating high school, being socially ostracized by the aunties in her mosque -- that all kept me so riveted and set the stage so well for understanding her awakening to queerness that in retrospect it all makes sense. I really enjoyed it all, but the last few chapters, when she talks about her adult relationship with her mother and how Islam helped keep her grounded in herself throughout the challenges she faced, those parts had me almost crying. Such a satisfying conclusion to this part of her story. For anyone interested in the audiobook version, I really adored the narrator. Clear enunciation and emotive expression. CW: CSA, references to domestic violence, references to state-sponsored terrorism, Islamophobia, and misogyny

  23. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    We Have Always Been Here is a powerful queer Muslim memoir about sexuality, religion, and finding your place. Samra Habib charts her life from growing up in Pakistan as part of a threatened sect of Islam, coming to Canada as a refugee and not fitting in at school, and then ending up in and escaping an arranged marriage at sixteen. From there, she writes about how she started to come to terms with her queer identity, found new friends and places to travel, and started a project to take photograph We Have Always Been Here is a powerful queer Muslim memoir about sexuality, religion, and finding your place. Samra Habib charts her life from growing up in Pakistan as part of a threatened sect of Islam, coming to Canada as a refugee and not fitting in at school, and then ending up in and escaping an arranged marriage at sixteen. From there, she writes about how she started to come to terms with her queer identity, found new friends and places to travel, and started a project to take photographs of other queer Muslims to be more visible. This is an important book that gives an insight into what it is like to not only be Muslim and work out your sexuality, but also to learn to fight against your family when what they want for you isn't what you want and how to find your own ways to adapt in different cultures and countries. Love—familial, romantic, between friends—is a constant theme, and so is human connection in various ways, especially the people who directly or indirectly influence someone for the better. We Have Always Been Here is a short, readable memoir, one that people should pick up whether Habib's experiences overlap with theirs in any way or not. It is a statement about being yourself and considering how your own identities coexist and affect your life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Madame

    Disclaimer: I no longer feel comfortable to rate stars on the accounts of true stories/memoirs. It feels like an unfair judgement. Thank you for net galley and publisher for allowing to an advance copy in exchange for my honest review. Honestly when I first started the book, I thought it will be the one you read gradually, that it will take me some time to get through but to my surprise, it was the opposite. I had forgotten most of the blurb by the time I picked it up and found that it began in Disclaimer: I no longer feel comfortable to rate stars on the accounts of true stories/memoirs. It feels like an unfair judgement. Thank you for net galley and publisher for allowing to an advance copy in exchange for my honest review. Honestly when I first started the book, I thought it will be the one you read gradually, that it will take me some time to get through but to my surprise, it was the opposite. I had forgotten most of the blurb by the time I picked it up and found that it began in Pakistan much to my delight, I have read little in literature about Pakistan from the eyes of a Pakistani and never from a Muslim queer. My enthusiasm about the book began to grow in folds. I loved experiencing the visual imagery of her childhood, reading about the friends she found and lost, about her fears and her family. She writes the memoir as if one evening you two met, that she's really in front of you, narrating about her life between brief sips of her tea and you have neglected yours cause you have spellbound by her journey and all of her courage. I'm incredibly happy that she found herself happiness and support and is fighting to provide to others who need it too. It's a story you must read and let her read to you. Beautiful and highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan White

    I discovered Samra Habib through netgalley, I saw the description and cover for this book and thought I need an ARC of this ASAP. I was so lucky that Penguin Random House Canada decided I was deserving. First off how am I Canadian and did not know who Samra Sabib was , after reading this book she is a legend in my eyes. Normally I’d be saying I was ashamed because I hadn’t heard her but she taught me there is no shame. Her writing is eloquent and raw and so real. This book literally cut me open I discovered Samra Habib through netgalley, I saw the description and cover for this book and thought I need an ARC of this ASAP. I was so lucky that Penguin Random House Canada decided I was deserving. First off how am I Canadian and did not know who Samra Sabib was , after reading this book she is a legend in my eyes. Normally I’d be saying I was ashamed because I hadn’t heard her but she taught me there is no shame. Her writing is eloquent and raw and so real. This book literally cut me open and bled me dry. Now I can bleed better blood, authentic blood because that’s what she does to you. The book just pours out authenticity and I am so better for reading it. I’ve learned so much from these pages about Pakistan and Muslim culture. I felt so much sadness for the difficulty’s faced and compassion for the resilience. I felt so ashamed that islamaphobia is even a thing in our society in this modern world. I felt as a person who identifies as queer, so validated even tho I am not Muslim. This book was a safe space. This book told me I’m queer enough even if I love a man. If you like reading about authentic people with the power to change lives - this is for you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cátia Vieira

    Why should you read this book? A couple of months ago, when I was looking up the upcoming releases, I felt extremely intrigued by We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib. I knew I had to read it. I wanted to understand what’s the journey like for a Muslim and queer person. And, I am so glad I read this book. Samra is such a brave and inspiring person and reading her memoir was such fulfilling and tender experience. Samra Habib grew up in Pakistan as an Ahmadi Muslim but, aft Why should you read this book? A couple of months ago, when I was looking up the upcoming releases, I felt extremely intrigued by We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib. I knew I had to read it. I wanted to understand what’s the journey like for a Muslim and queer person. And, I am so glad I read this book. Samra is such a brave and inspiring person and reading her memoir was such fulfilling and tender experience. Samra Habib grew up in Pakistan as an Ahmadi Muslim but, after facing regular threats from Islamic extremists, her family moved to Canada as refugees. In that country, Samra dealt with new and different challenges: racism, bullying, poverty and an arranged marriage. In her twenties, she was already tired of living a life that was not hers, trying to be someone she was not. She started traveling around the world – from Tokyo to Berlin – dating whoever she wanted, exploring her sexuality at all levels. Back to Canada, she finds her true way back into Islam and into her family. I think this is an excellent memoir. If you’re looking to read more about the LGBTQI+ community and the links with Islamism, get this book! This may feel random but Samra also addresses the role of academic discourse on the queer community. I loved reading what she had to say and I absolutely agree. She stated that the people within this community feel often displaced, alone and misunderstood. Unfortunately, scholars use jargon that is only accessible to their peers and not to the community itself. So, at the end, they still feel displaced even though the discourse is about them. The audiobook is also great, by the way! I’d like to thank Viking Books for sending a review copy. For more reviews, follow me on Instagram: @booksturnyouon

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a really great memoir from artist and writer and activist and refugee and Muslim and queer Samra Habib. It covers her childhood in Pakistan, fleeing religious persecution and seeking asylum in Canada, the arranged marriage she had with her older first cousin at the age of 16, her subsequent divorce, and coming into her own through lots of exploration and experimentation in many aspects of life. That's kind of a reductive list; throughout the story, Habib talks openly about her complicate This is a really great memoir from artist and writer and activist and refugee and Muslim and queer Samra Habib. It covers her childhood in Pakistan, fleeing religious persecution and seeking asylum in Canada, the arranged marriage she had with her older first cousin at the age of 16, her subsequent divorce, and coming into her own through lots of exploration and experimentation in many aspects of life. That's kind of a reductive list; throughout the story, Habib talks openly about her complicated emotions about things that were happening in her life, and becomes a truly confident woman claiming her multifaceted identity with joy and pride. I found her story super compelling and a great addition to the queer memoir canon, which is sorely lacking in Muslim voices and immigrant voices. At times I found the writing a little dry, like I wanted more description and emotion to ground me, and some parts felt rushed. But overall I think this is a fantastic memoir and I highly recommend it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    I was intrigued by the title and decided it would be a good read. The title had me interested, especially as I had known Muslims who told me you could not be both Muslim and a gay/lesbian person (this was their wording and it's not to ignore the greater LGBTQ+ community). It's Habib's memoir of her life of being very young in Pakistan, and then moving to Canada with her family as refugees. Then we learn about what it's like to grow up in an entirely different country with all the challenges: grow I was intrigued by the title and decided it would be a good read. The title had me interested, especially as I had known Muslims who told me you could not be both Muslim and a gay/lesbian person (this was their wording and it's not to ignore the greater LGBTQ+ community). It's Habib's memoir of her life of being very young in Pakistan, and then moving to Canada with her family as refugees. Then we learn about what it's like to grow up in an entirely different country with all the challenges: growing up, being "different", bulling, racism, sorting out her identity etc. As others wrote: it wasn't really all that interesting. It felt very much like a "A and then B and then C" happened. I didn't find the text particularly interesting or her story very compelling. That she is Muslim and a refugee certainly was notable and while I'm glad she's here with us to share her story it just was not that interesting. It might be right for the right person but overall it was rather skippable.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    It feels strange to have an opinion about someone's memoirs, but Samra Habib has such a gift for storytelling that it seems impossible not to love this book. One of the highlights was her discussion of her photography project with queer Muslims and her critique of the inaccessibility of academic jargon. Samra is also not afraid to take a hard look at how the mythology surrounding Canadian multiculturalism and queer acceptance has actually led to political apathy and the inability of many Canadia It feels strange to have an opinion about someone's memoirs, but Samra Habib has such a gift for storytelling that it seems impossible not to love this book. One of the highlights was her discussion of her photography project with queer Muslims and her critique of the inaccessibility of academic jargon. Samra is also not afraid to take a hard look at how the mythology surrounding Canadian multiculturalism and queer acceptance has actually led to political apathy and the inability of many Canadians to empathize with or even conceptualize of the ongoing marginalization of queer and trans people of colour, which should give readers food for thought. This book is a can't-miss for anyone who wants to read about a person finding both community and their authentic self.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    *I received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review* Samra was born and raised in Pakistan but then moved with her family to Toronto as refugees. She is suddenly faced with a world so different than what she knew and so much more than she thought the world could offer. Samra ends up escaping an arranged marriage and finding a tribe of people that help her discover who she is and how she can reconcile her queerness and her faith. This is a beautiful memoir. It took me a little bit to *I received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review* Samra was born and raised in Pakistan but then moved with her family to Toronto as refugees. She is suddenly faced with a world so different than what she knew and so much more than she thought the world could offer. Samra ends up escaping an arranged marriage and finding a tribe of people that help her discover who she is and how she can reconcile her queerness and her faith. This is a beautiful memoir. It took me a little bit to get into it but once I did I was enthralled. Samra wrote about her life in such a real and touching way and in a way that makes you want to read more and it tells a story that is different than a lot of the stories out there.

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