FBC ep16 Etaf Rum.mp3
8:59PM Apr 3, 2019
This episode is brought to you in collaboration with book art bookmarks, the original elastic jewelry bookmark that fits both paperback and hardcover books to be displayed on your book, spine or on the cover. Order yours today at book art bookmarks. com
welcome back to the feminist book club podcast, a show for dangerous well read women. Each week we explore literature and media through a feminist lens as one small way to reclaim our time, our books and our stories. Let's get started.
Hey, everyone, Renee powers here with another fabulous author interview. You've probably been seeing her book all over Instagram or better known as books to Graham. Ease half forums a woman is no man is an absolutely gorgeous novel, it's just came out, you haven't picked it up yet you need to, it will move you in ways you didn't know you needed to move. Or if you're feeling extra lucky, we're actually giving away a copy. All you need to do it to enter is to follow us and follow eat off on our social media platforms, and then verify that through the link in our show notes. The more places you follow, the more entries you earn. And then the winner will be randomly selected April 11. So stop what you're doing. Click through to the show notes. Find us on all the social media platforms fine eat off on all the social media platforms give us all a follow. We are our feminist book club box on Instagram. And that's where we're most active eat half is easy to find to her handle assembly eat off from you can find us both on Twitter as well. And we will shoot you an email if you are the winner of your own copy of her book. That interview is coming up in just a minute. But right now I'm so excited to announce the first products that will be in your mailbox, a gorgeous elastic bookmark from book art bookmarks, you're probably thinking one of two things, I can feel it I know your thoughts. These are the two thoughts you might be happening. If you've never heard of bookmark bookmarks, you're probably like really a bookmark. That's boring.
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Did you stumble like I did. 1400 times.
And now, here is my conversation with eat off from
today I'm sitting down with a tough room, who is the author of the brand new book of woman is no man. He's half was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York by Palestinian immigrants. She teaches college English literature in North Carolina, where she lives with her two children. And this is her first novel. I'm so excited to talk about this book. welcome you today. Thank you so much. It's a pleasure. I'm excited. I want to for those of you not familiar with this book, I want to give a quick description of it. So we're all on the same level. So it starts and opens with a Palestinian woman is she immigrated to the US for an arranged marriage. And then it follows her struggles with the new family and their subsequent subsequent disappointment for giving birth to four girls, instead of burying any sons after she had her husband are killed in a car crash her oppressive in laws raise the children setting her daughter data on the same path to an arranged marriage, even though day a year to start her own destiny and attend college. But when a family secret emerges, everything changes. I we won't get into spoilers today, but I will tell you, I was not expecting everything to unfold the way it unfolded. So I think that is as an avid reader, I think that's impressive that You surprise me still.
So I asked everybody right off the bat, what is feminism to you? And how does it inform your word
feminism to me is about standing up for what you believe is just in the world, regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender. And when I started writing, feminism was at the core of what I wanted to do, especially coming from a place where I didn't see much feminism around me. And so I wanted to advocate on behalf of women who I felt their stories weren't told them are being treated justly. And to me, that's what feminism is about making sure making sure we're all regardless of gender treated equally. And just the unfair.
And I think that's a big theme in the book, as well as one of the things that struck me so much is that we often assume as white American feminists, we often assume, and especially in immigrant communities, that it's the men that are perpetuating patriarchy. And it's men that are perpetuating patriarchy kind of worldwide. But in your book, it's very much the cycles are very much continued by the women and the stories as a way of preserving culture, because that's just kind of how it's always been done. Do you think that's an accurate depiction?
Yeah, yeah. And very well said, when I first started thinking about feminism, it was in my idea that, you know, this patriarchal system, and it's the men that are in charge, and, and have all the power. But when I started really thinking about the patterns and the cycle of trauma and oppression and the cycles of patriarchy, I started to realize that it's actually the women in the community who hold that power in terms of educating and instilling values in the next community. And it was actually those women and this family story, it was those women that were continuing to enforce these patriarchal norms and patterns, and making sure that the next generation is still oppressed and subdued. And so I just thought that was such an interesting thing to look at and study, because we're not we don't often we don't often give women enough responsibility in terms of their own responsibility to make sure that these feminists values that we instill in our children.
Mm hmm. Or patriarchal values, if that's what you're working towards. Yeah. It seems to me that the overarching theme of this whole book is what it takes to break that cycle, and how difficult it is. And we see a couple examples of it and other kind of ancillary characters, but we get the story of day at the daughter of so Okay, so this book is written from multiple perspectives in multiple timelines. And so we get so that starts on the beginning in Palestine, and then she moves to the US, we get the perspective of her mother in law mother in law for Rita, and then we get the perspective of her daughter day, many years later, what did that format afford you that you that possibly a straight narrative wouldn't have done for you,
I felt like to tell the story and to tell the impact of generational trauma and generate the generational responsibility and how it trickles down. You needed more than one voice. So at the heart of the story is this newlywed immigrant, Ezra moving to Brooklyn. And then, you know, her daughter knows, that was how it originally was the story it was between day and the sort of like the mother and daughter story. And then I realized that it's, it's bigger than these women, this, you know, the trauma and abuse that they face doesn't just come from them, it comes from something outside of them and a family outside of them values that needed another perspective to see how things change across generation and our responsibility, and what we can do to break free. So that's what I mean, I felt like it was necessary.
Mm hmm. And I think adding for Rita's perspective does just add a layer of nuance, I think you're right, that we definitely wouldn't have gotten with just a mother and daughter story. And so interesting that they're not blood related blood relatives, this is her mother in law. And so she's Israel's kind of thrust into this family culture, that on paper is her same culture, but it's so different than what she knows, because they've been in the US for so long. I think what's really interesting to me too, is how compassionate the characters are, even though when they're being not when they're being cruel. But even when they do cruel or mean or wrong, is the characters are multifaceted, and you still understand why they're being the way they are. Was that important to you to humanize them? And not? That's a leading question. But let's go with
no, it was very important to me. I, I know I mean, as an avid reader, myself, it's frustrating when you pick up a book, and the themes are black and white, and the characters are there either good, or they're bad, because that's not how the world works. You know, humans are not good, we all have good and bad with us. And we all have things that we've inherited behaviors that we've adapted from our past that make us who we are, and that make us look at the world, the way that we look at it. And so it was important for me in the story, not to victimize the woman and give her no agency and no power, and then make sure that the man is seen as like the oppressor and the evil, bad guy. Because that's not how you know, that's not how reality is, the men are also products of trauma, and they are all enforcing certain behaviors, because they've learned it from the past. And I wanted to make sure that that was seen across both genders so that we can come out of the novel with a better understanding of why people do the things that they do and how we can change it. Who did you write this novel for? I voted for my children. I have two kids, I have a seven year old done and a nine year old daughter and I, as I'm a product of my parents are Palestinian immigrants. And I was born and raised in Brooklyn. So the story was very close to me. And I found I found myself pretty much repeating a lot of things that I inherited from my culture and my upbringing, and I wanted to teach my children a better way to live. So to explore it to explore what that meant. I had to write this book, where does your story then intersect with these stories, I had an arranged marriage and I was 19. And I moved away to North Carolina where I had my kids at a young age. So I would say that my story would probably would probably interest between all of these stories, I'm a little bit in all the characters, you know, obviously day is struggling with, you know, her, her grandparents want her to follow in her mother's footsteps and get into an arranged marriage is 18 years old, she lives in Brooklyn. So a lot of her thoughts or thoughts that I had on her age, but then also like, when you're with us, when you see her having children at such a young age, and she doesn't know what to do. And she's like losing myself in the darkness that kind of takes over, you know, were things that I could very much picture and relate to it. And I felt myself so a little bit in, you know, I'm a little bit there, just in the end of
everybody. I think that we all right ourselves into stories no matter what they are. So yeah, and reputation is such a major theme in this story as well, we get especially for for Rita, we the mother in law, we get her perspective on what would bring shame to a family. And still, I'm a white woman, you know, my family has been here for generations. But I still resonated with that. And I wondering how these themes translate of the universal, right? They mean, they translate across culture, but how do you think that reputation especially goes beyond Arab communities? It's this? That's such
a good question. And I love I love this question. Because it's so easy to look at the story and stereotype it quickly into this is an Arab story. And it's about Arabs and oppression and domestic abuse or whatever is happening. That's just an Arab thing. Like it doesn't like, of course, it happens everywhere. Regardless of it, just this just, this family just so happens to be an Arab family. And so the themes like reputation is everything. That's a very strong component of Arab culture. What will people think you can't do that? What will people think, but then again, when we really think about it is a very universal, it's a very universal concept or barrier that all cultures at some, you know, at some point struggle with record, even even as a white woman, you're saying you're, you still have to deal with that to some extent. And I feel like finding ways to bridge other cultures and ethnicities together with with universal struggles, is something that's very important to me, regardless of how extreme the you know, the reputation or the concept plays out in each culture, it's still it's still a unifier now allows us to put ourselves in other people's shoes and really think about life from their perspective, because we do share a common, you know, ground some in some way. So yeah, so that was important. And I'm glad you asked them. So I do worry, though, or and do you share this concern that there is a lot of oppression and violence in this book? Do you think that it might be doing a disservice to Arab immigrants or a Palestinian immigrants? I think that that's a very narrow and limited way to look at a work of fiction for two things for, for two reasons. One, you know, we, you, we read books all the time, right? I can read American Psycho, which is about a white man, you know, serial killer, murdering people, and I don't automatically assume that every white man living in America is a serial killer. And another reason is also that we, as Arab Americans, I, as an Arab American, don't have many people around me that are telling these stories, I have this very large burden to to tell a family story, one family story in a way that captures and reflects every single Arab American out there, which is, which is insane. Like, I can't do that. And it's unfair to think that because I'm perhaps the first Arab Americans to come out to write a story about a domestic abuse, which happens in every culture, that just because there aren't other stories out there to color to give more color and more life to the Arab American experience doesn't necessarily minimize the importance of this particular story. And the fact that it is happening in some way. So I really think that that, you know, yes, is there a possibility that people will look at the story and say, oh, wow, Arab Americans are just so oppressed, and their, their lives are horrible. And look, here's proof. But then again, that's not true. You know, this story isn't a reflection of all all of Arab culture. It's a reflection of a part of their culture. I'm
so glad you said that. And I hope my intention with that question was respectful of it was respectful. And I hope that came off that way. Because I think these that's a point that needs to get made over and over again. Yeah, and trust, every interview
has been the same thing over over which I anticipated writing the story. Because there because there aren't other stories to give color to American like, you know, there's thousands and thousands and thousands of stories about white, the white man and the white woman white stories. And then there's many stories about the African American experience, where it's not just about slavery, like they have real lives to, you know, like they have their real humans with, with real with real struggles. And especially now recently, I'm so glad that that's happening. But now there's there's a new, I guess, era, or Boy, that now speaking about a culture that hasn't really been represented. So of course, I mean, I'm anticipating a lot of controversy. But that doesn't, that doesn't take away from the fact these are authentic stories that needs to be told, and women that need their voices to be shared, and there and that needs to be fought for and represented.
Yeah. And I also think that the readers who pick this up aren't coming to it thinking like Arab Americans are violent and oppressed. And below, you know, and I mean, like most readers who would pick up a book like this are pretty open minded, you brought something up about the voiceless. And your introduction is all about not having a voice. And do you mind if I read the very first page before the book even starts? It begins with this, this introduction, I was born without a voice. One cold, overcast day in Brooklyn, New York, no one ever spoke of my condition. I did not know I was muted until years later, when I opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted. And realize no one could hear me where I come from voice listening is a condition of my gender as normal as the Muslims on a woman's chest as necessary as the next generation growing in her belly. But we will never tell you this, of course, where I come from, we've learned to conceal our condition. We've been taught to silence ourselves that our silence will save us it is only now many years later that I know this is false. Only now as I write the story, do I feel my voice coming? And I didn't understand that until I rewrote it just now. I wasn't sure where you're going. You know, you know, when you open a book, you're like, this is going to be a brand new experience.
Yeah, yeah. No context clues for you. Yeah,
yeah. And now talking to you having read this book, how was your voice? How do you feel I'm talking to you, and I feel great.
I feel finally, for the first time in my life, that I don't have to tiptoe around the things that are most important to me, and that I get to voice my opinion, and that on some level, it doesn't mean it doesn't matter who is hearing this, whether or not they approve of it, you know, perhaps I'm not, I'm still not heard within my community, which is, you know, people that I wanted their approval the most, but I do know that I am being heard and that I am making the difference. And to me, that's the most important, what do you
think the impact of this book is on your personal life in your professional life, now that you're on the other side of it?
It's in the world? Well, professionally, I feel very privileged to get to tell the story, right. I feel honored and grateful. And I get to hear daily messages about women who are so thankful that they could see themselves in book whether or not some of them relate 100% to the things that are that are happening in the books, and some of them really on some level, but But still, it's just such a so refreshing to see that these people out there that so desperately want to see themselves in the pages of literature, but haven't been able to and then reaching out and thanking me for sharing their voices, their fears, or concerns. Um, so to me professionally, I feel very accomplished for you know, for writing the story. Personally, there has been a cost to to all this. And I think that with anything that's controversial, there will always be a cost. And if there wasn't a cause, then I guess this, you know, my story wouldn't have made sense. Like, how can I say that I was born without a voice. And that, you know, I was I was raised to be silenced. And then, you know, accomplish this, and then my whole family be supporting me. Like, it wouldn't make any sense, right. So like, I'm completely outcast. And now like, I don't, you know, for many reasons, not just this book, but like for, because I decided to speak up against the violence in my own life, because I got a divorce, because I wrote this book. So yeah, there's been definitely a cost personally to speaking up as there is when you do anything that is uncomfortable, and it goes against what you been raised to do. Do you think it's been worth it? Oh, absolutely. It's been worth it. I mean, even if I not because of not because I wrote a novel, but because the novel helped me see and understand myself in this community for the first time. And it gave me the courage to break to break free of these cycles, and to teach my children a better way to live. And so it was definitely worth it just for that fact alone, my own self awareness, my, my children, their futures. So
just on that note, it was definitely, it sounds like your personal story is still yet to be determined to professional stories still yet to be determined. And I think it parallels beautifully with the book, which doesn't wrap up nicely in a bow. It's one of those that kind of just leaves you wondering what's next, even though you kind of know, you get an idea what's happening. Why was it important to you to share that there's not necessarily a happy ending all the time.
Yeah. And and are you referring to the ending, like the way that ended the novel? Yeah, totally. Yeah. And I've been getting so many readers like messaging me, some of them absolutely. Get an understand why it ended the way did and then some of them want to know, wait a minute. I like that. And that way, I don't get it. You know, I want more. I feel like I want more. And this is real life. Right? My intention with this novel is to represent reality and not to paint a cliched picture or this like happy ending that's like perfectly tied up in it's not a thriller, right. It's or it has, you know, Thriller Allah in it. But ultimately, it's a real life story. And so I wanted to make sure that it had a realistic ending, but that was also an ending of hope. And to do that, I had to take the steps that I took at the end of the novel, to make sure that while we already know what's going to happen, we understand it in a more hopeful lens. Mm hmm.
Yeah, it's really it's gut wrenching. The last couple chapters, you're just like, oh, what is happening? It's, it's beautiful. And I commend you I think for a debut novel, it is so good. And there's no other words it is so good. And the fact that this is your first is very impressive. Thank you for bringing it into this world and give sharing light on these stories and during your time with me today. I do too. I do ask everybody at the end to suggest a book that is it your own or readers might like just one you are welcome to do a couple
awesome i love a book that I feel is a quote close to home to my story a woman is demand but also so with on a nonfiction note realism on I am yours. And you're a listener. You heard remote interview, I've been singing that looks praises for week now. It's It is beautiful. Yeah. And a book that is coming out next one, which talks about on. It's called the affairs of the fallen ones by Melissa Rivero, it comes out April 2. And it's it's a beautiful book. It's a beautiful book. I just love women's stories. Yeah. And so I hope the readers check it out and more like it. Well, I will link both of those in the show notes. And we'll try to get Melissa on as well because I think that she would make an excellent guest and oh, I'm interested in that book very much. So I've been hearing a little bit about it. This has been wonderful. I'm so grateful for you where can readers find you or listeners find you if they want to learn more about you and your work. I'm on Instagram which are very active on so if you messaged me on those as you back ETF from, it's just my first name and my last name. And I'm also I also run books in beans. So books have been on Instagram and of course Twitter you tap from I'll be on Twitter. But yeah, I look forward to connecting with my readers answering any questions. I'm so honored and grateful to be here. And thank you so much for having Thank you so much. Take care.
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