Title: We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
Author: Samra Habib
Date Read: March 8, 2020
One and a half snaps.
One of this year’s (indefinitely postponed) Canada Reads Selections.
I liked it, but I am not so sure it meets the criteria as the: “one book to bring Canada in to focus.”
Habib writes honestly and irreverently, and with a distinct and lovely prose, but I didn’t find her story particularly compelling, and I am not sure why I didn’t feel much. It was more factual than tender and more clinical than emotional. Her memoir helps us to understand the racism, bullying, and sexism she faced– as it happened to her both in Pakistan and Canada; illuminating the duplicitous trials of her sexuality, culture and faith. But understanding something is different from feeling it.
In anticipation of what lay beyond the glass doors, I thought back to the lush green landscapes I’d seen in episodes of Little House on the Prairie. That is what I imagined Canada– the entire Western world for that matter– would look like. Miles of green hills dominating the horizon. Rich with abundance. Nothing like Pakistan. In my ten-year-old mind, war and persecution didn’t exist this many oceans from home. Bodies weren’t disposable.
But that is not the Canada I encountered on that ripe July day in 1991. Instead of blooming with potential, Canada felt oddly sterile. Or maybe overly polite, as though it didn’t want to ruffle any feathers with a jolt of personality.(Habib, p.45)
She did help me pass the time on a few flights… but I will need to read another of the finalists to find the book that brings Canada in to focus.