In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice.
History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.
This was in my TBR for a shamefully long time and I am so happy I finally read it. The timing worked out perfectly as well, because I had just finished Mornings in Jenin, so the context of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and Palestinian culture was fresh in my mind and I felt I understood certain elements of this book so much better as a result.
A Woman Is No Man is a frustrating, yet beautifully portrayed, account of a mother and daughter and their struggles and questions around their identity in New York. However, both stories occur nearly 20 years apart.
Isra and Deya give us eye opening and frustrating glimpses of the oppressive roles expected of Arab wives, no matter where they are. The land of the free and the land of opportunity was not what Isra expected it to be when moving to New York with her new husband and she quickly learns that now matter where you are in the world, a woman has her place.
Deya struggles to come to terms with these expectations and doesn’t want to find herself in an unhappy marriage and life like her mother. At a young age she forgoes a difficult and heart breaking emotional journey to truly understand who her mother was and what future lays ahead for her.
I was so surprised when I found out this was a debut novel. It is so beautifully written and the characters are given so much depth and soul. You connect with them on such an emotional level and find yourself experiencing the same frustrations as they encounter different challenges. There’s also a lovely theme throughout about the love of reading and I think all we can agree that we can relate to that!
One thing this book made me really think about is how lucky I am. I have never had restrictions or expectations set on me that I am uncomfortable with. My parents and family have always encouraged myself and my sisters to pursue every opportunity and live our lives and for that I am so thankful.
This is a beautiful and thought provoking read that leaves a lasting impression. The ending did feel a little rushed, which is why I didn’t give it 10/10. The whole story was building up to what felt like a big moment and I just found it a little underwhelming. But overall, it’s still a great book!
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
“I was born without a voice, one cold, overcast day in Brooklyn, New York. No one ever spoke of my condition. I did not know I was mute until years later, when I opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted and realized no one could hear me.”
Sarah, Deya's aunt. Such a strong woman and character, loved her!