“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”by Samra Habib— Finding Yourself in a World That Won’t Let You Be

Habib, Samra. “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”, Viking, 2019.

Finding Yourself in a World That Won’t Let You Be

Amos Lassen

Samra Habib is an Ahmadi Muslim who while growing up in Pakistan had spent more of her young life trying to figure out who she is. In Pakistan she and her family faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed that Ahmadi is a blasphemous sect of Islam. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger.

Eventually her family came to Canada as refugees and Samra encountered many new challenges including bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. She felt as if she had no free choice and was backed into a corner. She needed a safe space and this became crucial so that she would be able to  grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit. The men in her family and her life wanted to police her, the women adhered to pious obedience.

Habib explores faith, art, love, and queer sexuality as she seeks to discover herself and she shares that with us in “We Have Always Been Here”, a memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not. For anyone who has ever felt out of place here is a look at the power of fearlessly inhabiting one’s truest self. It is personal but it is also  a look at “who and what we are as a people living in a time of great migrations, of cultures bumping into cultures, of politics of exclusions.” Beautifully written, it is a fresh way to see how we can learn to value ourselves and one another. Samra will both tear at your insides and redeem you with her honest and spiritual observations of crossing borders, both external and interior. Habib has written a detailed memoir of coming of age and coming out that brings together family history, sexuality, faith, and culture.

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