Book Review: A Woman Is No Man

Title: A Woman Is No Man

Author: Etaf Rum

Format: Advance Reader Copy

Published: 2019

Thank you to Goodreads for this giveaway win of the advance reader copy of A Woman Is No Man!  See, I am proof that real people win those giveaways, keep entering them!

When I won this book I wasn’t excited.  I thought, well, it’s a free book, what’s the harm in it?  This was one of those, why did I enter this giveaway books.  First, let me give you some background on the story.

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This book starts off with women not having a voice.  We are told the story of Palestinian women living in America through the mother-in-law/grandmother, our main character the daughter-in-law/mother, and daughter/granddaughter.  Caught all that?  Basically the mother-in-law came to America to try and make a better life for her family.  Her son married a woman from Palestine and she moved to America.  The daughter was born and raised in America.  Isra, the mother, is the one who really carries the story.  All three characters get developed nicely through this story with the daughter, Deya, growing the most.

When I say the son married a woman from Palestine what I mean is the family picked this one woman, they spoke for a few times, and then decided sure, we can get married.  It’s like an upgraded version of an arranged marriage because you can say no.  So she lives the life a woman; takes care of the men, cooks, cleans, tends to the children, and rarely leaves the house.  Oh, and also takes beatings from her husband.

This book really opened my eyes to what oppression by one’s culture looks like.   I was mortified at the marriage arrangements.  I was mortified at the life they live inside their homes.  I was angry at the abuse they think is ok to take from their husbands.  Then I realized, how can I be mortified at something that is part of their culture?  Just because I don’t follow it, does not mean it’s not ok.  When the woman talked about being “Americanized” that is when I realized, wow, they are mortified at the fact that I have a job and live outside of the house.  It puts things into perspective.

I still do not agree with the domestic violence and never will.  Trigger warning, this book talks a lot about it.  No one should be subject to physical or mental abuse.  No one.

Isra once had high hopes for herself and ended up being stuck in a no way out situation.  I feel her spirit was passed to her first born daughter, Deya, and she would be so happy with how her daughter grows and stands up for herself.  When she discovers that her parents may not have really died in a car accident, we go on a whirlwind adventure.  Isra and the mother-in-law give us pieces from the past that put everything together.  As depressing at this book can be at times, you will enjoy the ending with what happens to Deya.

I am going to give this book 5 stars.  This was a powerful, heart breaking, and heart warming story.  It is fantastically written and helps to open our eyes to different cultures.  This isn’t a light read, but, I didn’t find it to be a real heavy read either.  I will also say that my dense brain thought the book just ended rudely.  I googled the ending to the book and IT ALL MADE SENSE.  What happens at the end of the book is what happens right before the daughter’s last memory of the mother.  Keep that in mind WHEN you pick this one up, because there’s no excuse not to.  You will be happy to see that a woman finally gained her own voice.

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Book Review – Octopus! By Katherine Harmon Courage

Title: Octopus!  (The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea)
Author: Katherine Harmon Courage
Format: 
Paperback
Published: 
2013

Octopus! is not surprisingly a nonfiction book about octopuses.  (I picked up a free ARC copy.)  Subcategorizing it beyond nonfiction is a little tricky.  It’s sort of a snapshot of our historical, culinary, cultural, fictional, and scientific relationship with the octopus.  Katherine Harmon Courage is a journalist and an associate editor at Scientific American.  So there’s a good portion of the book which focuses on the biology and science of the octopus, but there’s almost as much time spent on what we don’t know about them as what we do.

As a personal preference, I like my nonfiction a bit drier than this book.  I felt there was way too much time spent on Katherine’s traveling misadventures to meet various fishermen and researchers, and I got a little bored with the constant variations on “Isn’t that cool/icky/strange/interesting!?!”

However, for other people this might be a nice break from a textbook rattling off a dry list of facts.  There is something interesting about stepping back from a stack of figures and looking at the messy, imprecise side of trying to gather more precise data.

If you’d like to know more about the octopus (or are just looking for idea fodder for a hard science fiction tale) this may be a good gateway book.  At 220 pages, it’s not a super long or intense read, but it does offer up a lot of stimulating food for thought on everything from our perspective on other species to the weird economics of food exportation to robotics.  And there’s an extensive list of source material in the back if you want some drier reading. Courage certainly did her research.

If you’re a hardcore animal rights advocate, you may feel a bit of outrage at sampling a live octopus meal at a Korean restaurant, and if you’re not, you may still feel a bit squeamish during a few passages.  It’s not a book designed to shock, but neither does it hold back on raw realities of octopus life or octopuses in our lives.  (Yes, she briefly covers hentai.)

I’ll give it a solid 4 out of  5, since I think the book accomplishes what it sets out to do.  I can’t say it’s a must read.  Just kind of nice, kind of interesting, and while there’s a certain deliberate messiness to the presentation, it does cover a lot of fascinating ideas.

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