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A Woman Is No Man

A Novel
By: Etaf Rum
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (129 ratings)

Regular price: $30.79

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Publisher's Summary

“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 best-selling 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 naive 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.

©2019 Etaf Rum (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Three female narrators work together in this Palestinian family epic.... Listeners will become enmeshed in the overlapping ambitions of these fascinating women." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best book of the year (so far)

This year has been the year of returns where I have given in after 20 minutes. This came and my heart was opened. This book should be read in school and in families. It is a story guaranteed to change you.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brooklyn Girl.

loved it! Culture seems to often trump common sense. Wome are wonderful and strong. Insight into Palestinian cultural norms regarding women in general. Irregardless of where they live.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A lesson in oppression

Arranged marriages, domestic violence, attempts to be free and acceptance of depressing circumstances all in one book that follows 3 different women.

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Wonderful story with a great performance

I loved this story. I really enjoyed that there were three readers. It helped me to connect to the women, Isra, Fareeda, and Deya. I don’t know much about Palestine or their traditions but I have learned so much about their culture. The women in that culture are considered as annoyances. They also can’t make their own choices. It makes me thankful for my life. I highly recommend this book!

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  • Bonnie
  • hayward, CA, United States
  • 03-16-19

Required Reading

this is a compelling book that really lays out the torment and tragedies of three generations of Moslem women in the US. By the time the book is over, there is little about their struggles that hasn't been exposed. This book should be required reading for all high school students to let them know how it feels to be living 2 lives: as an American and as an ethnic person with strong cultural dictums that must be followed at home. My eyes and my heart were opened by this book.