CANADA READS 2020 WINNER
2020 LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD WINNER
How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don't exist?
Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger.
When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space--in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit--became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved.
So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one's truest self.
SAMRA HABIB is a writer, photographer, and activist. As a journalist she's covered topics ranging from fashion trends and Muslim dating apps to the rise of Islamophobia in the US. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Advocate, and her photo project, "Just Me and Allah," has been featured in Nylon, i-D, Vanity Fair Italia, Vice, and The Washington Post. She works with LGBTQ organizations internationally, raising awareness of issues that impact queer Muslims around the world. We Have Always Been Here is her first book.
WINNER of Canada Reads 2020
WINNER of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award
Longlisted for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize
Praise for We Have Always Been Here:
“We Have Always Been Here challenges so many received wisdoms on gender, faith and sexuality that its very existence in the world is cause for celebration.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Habib writes through a lens of compassion, hope, and ever-widening circles of understanding.”
—Quill and Quire
“I fell in love with this book. In prose as economical, crisp, clear, and truthful as poetry, Samra Habib offers a map of how we might learn to see and treasure one another and ourselves. In this way it calls to mind the works of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Jane Rule. I predict that this book will never go out of print—it will become required and desired reading for people of all ages, persuasions, and backgrounds. How I wish I had had it to keep close to my heart when I was younger.”
—Shani Mootoo, author of Cereus Blooms at Night
“A brave coming-of-age account . . . A heartfelt act of resistance for queer Muslims and progressive Islam everywhere.”
—Literary Review of Canada
“Gutting and redemptive, We Have Always Been Here is the story of one woman’s path to self-determination against every odd. Habib’s voice is sensual and mesmerizing, her talent fierce and necessary. A transformative reading experience . . . Habib’s every word lifts off the page, vital and bright as a match being struck.”
—Claudia Dey, author of Heartbreaker
“Powerful . . . We Have Always Been Here is a portrait of a woman who eventually does find the key to her identity.”
“I could not put down this drama of crossing borders, both external and interior, that teaches us to look into ourselves more deeply and to see others with more empathy. This book is a gift in a historical moment of many struggles, and we are lucky to share Habib’s generous and courageous story. I will be giving everyone I know this book!”
—Kim Echlin, author of The Disappeared
“A memoir of coming of age and coming out told in rich detail. Samra Habib’s account of growing up queer and Muslim in Pakistan and Canada is at once searching and tender.”
—Rachel Giese, author of Boys: What It Means to Become a Man
“Samra Habib’s memoir unfolds like a pre-digital photograph developing before our eyes. The identities she carries lovingly and with pride insist we revere a complication for so long denied. To say I count, I exist, is revolutionary when you are denied complication. Habib has written the book she wished she had when she was young. It is a book we should all have had long ago.”
—Mona Eltahawy, author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
“A beautiful telling of a life, of love, of the reclamation of power, of feeling truly seen, and of finding your way home. An exquisite, powerful, and urgent book.”
—Stacey May Fowles
“A poignantly told memoir about a life fiercely lived.”