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A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

wow this just completely missed the mark huh

◘ I’m so starved for any kind of Arab representation in fiction, let alone ownvoices Muslim Arab representation, so I jumped at the chance to read this when the audiobook popped up on Scribd. And oh boy was I disappointed.

◘ This book’s biggest weakness is without a doubt its lack of nuance. I don’t want to be the person that’s like oh the oppression you represented in your book isn’t complicated enough. I’m sure women did and still do experience the kind of marginalization Rum depicts in this book: domestic abuse, a lack of choices, physical confinement, etc. And I also know the amount of pressure that gets put on works by authors of colour to be representative of their entire ethnic/racial groups. I don’t want to hold Rum responsible for somehow failing to encapsulate the entirety of the Arab experience; no one book can do that. But all that being said, I still think her book severely lacked nuance—in its representation of allits characters, in its messages, in everything, really.

pictured above: me while reading this book

◘ More than nuance, I think this novel suffers from being EXTREMELY repetitive. By the time you get to the halfway point of the narrative, it feels like you’re just reading the same scenes over and over again: Isra makes tea for her mother-in-law, her mother-in-law is disappointed that she’s given birth to a girl, Deya’s grandmother tells her she should consider her marriage options, Deya says she doesn’t want to, Isra loves to read, ad infinitum. When you’re reading the same scenes represented in the same simplistic, on-the-nose ways again and again and again, the reading experience starts to drag, quickly.

◘ All of this is not to say that I’m not happy that this book was written; I’m all for more stories about Arab experiences, especially ownvoices ones. I definitely wish there were more, but I’m glad that Arab authors are getting the chance to get books published. I didn’t much like this novel in particular, but here’s hoping that other good ones are written.


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idk this felt like it was trying so hard to be deep and poignant but really it just ended up being sappy and a little cringey

my biggest issue with this is that every single moment in the book felt like the author wanted it to be A Moment. characters who’d known each other for all of 5 minutes were already like woah I see all the emotional walls you’ve put up behind your smile !! you gotta let the past go !! you can’t keep holding on to those vulnerabilities forever !! and the whole time I was like ????? first of all, no one would ever say that to anyone they’d known for that short a time, and second of all, no one talks like that. pretty much all the scenes ended up feeling ridiculously forced because they were written with the subtlety of a brick to the face. also, the main character Naomi is supposed to be 30 but felt like she was 10 (and spoke like she was 10). and her overall characterization was so poor. all I know about her is that she trusts 3 people, and I only know that bc the author explicitly told us about it like 32830123 times 🙂 🙂 🙂

the writing style was redundant, the plot was boring with a bunch of unnecessary side-plots (not to mention convenient as hell), the shifting POVs annoyed me—frankly this book is just one big blob in my head right now. nothing about it left any kind of lasting impression one me. it was just BLEH. that’s about as close as I can get to representing my experience reading The Child Finder for you…


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