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A Queer Muslim Memoir

by Samra Habib

Pub Date: June 4th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7352-3500-7
Publisher: Viking

A queer Muslim woman recounts her emotional, sexual, and spiritual unfurling.

In her debut, writer, photographer, and activist Habib begins with her childhood in Pakistan, where she learned the protective value of hiding, which insulated her from public stigma (and her mother’s private devastation) after Habib survived child sexual abuse at age 4. Hiding also provided tenuous safety for her Ahmadi Muslim family amid growing state and extremist violence against the religious minority. Masking her feelings also proved useful when her family sought asylum in Canada and “traded one set of anxieties for another.” There, the author endured racist bullying, growing alienation from her family, and the despair of her arranged marriage at 16: “Getting to know men was not something the women in my family were encouraged to do. They were to be avoided at all times, like attack dogs without muzzles.” After desperation drove Habib to attempt suicide, her survival pushed her to emerge from under the patriarchal, homophobic expectations of both her culture of origin and the broader Western culture within which she matured. She started by bravely defying her forced union, which propelled her on a challenging, revelatory journey to return to her queerness, faith, and family (biological and chosen). Religious and secular readers alike will be touched by the way Habib’s faith has been strengthened, rather than undermined, by Islamophobia as well as by the compassion and candor with which she examines her complex filial relationships. Triumphantly, the narrative culminates in scenes of a life full of purpose, power, and belonging. Habib found a LGBTQ–centered mosque, created a queer Muslim portrait project, and accepted invitations to speak all over the world. Though the author’s prose is occasionally overworked, the book is a moving example of resilience and healing in the face of racial, sexual, and familial trauma.

A poignantly told memoir about a life fiercely lived.