Rum. Etaf, A Woman is no Man: A Novel. Sydney:Harper Collins Publishers, 2019.
A Woman is no Man by Etaf Rum is a complex multi-generational story of Palestinian immigrant women living in America. The story reinforces the cultural norms and stereotypes of a woman's life in a conservative Arab household. The main takeaway of the novel is how awareness of a situation is not equal to having the ability to take action. It takes courage and resolve to break the cycle.
Trigger warning: systemic violence, domestic abuse.
The writer Etaf Rum was born and raised in Brooklyn in a conventional Palestinian household. She entered into an arranged marriage at a very young age. Her observations on a traditional Arab household translate into her writing. The story follows an Arab family that flees from Palestine to Brooklyn. It highlights the choices available to the three generations of women over the years, comparing if and how their life prospects have changed.
A secondary theme of the novel is reading. The protagonists see books as an escape from their confined lives. However, reading, for them, is a guilty pleasure and is not appreciated. The characters of the three lady protagonists are well developed. Each one of them facing systemic oppression. The novel points out the way certain women further toxic masculinity in their households. One of the characters successfully evades the oppressive environment, however her role in the story could have been further developed.
A Woman is No Man is an emotional and haunting read. There are many aspects of the story which make one wish if only certain practices had remained a part of the past only and had not lingered till date.
A lecturer and lifestyle consultant by the day; an avid reader and writer by the night, I am a student of life.