We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

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...

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Title:We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
Author:Samra Habib
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We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir Reviews

  • 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.)

  • Ameema Saeed

    4.5 stars.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

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