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We Have Always Been Here

A Queer Muslim Memoir
Written by: Samra Habib
Narrated by: Parmida Vand
Length: 5 hrs and 14 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (139 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

National Best Seller
WINNER of Canada Reads 2020
WINNER of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award
Longlisted for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize 

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. 

“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)

©2019 Samra Habib (P)2019 Viking

What the critics say

“I fell in love with this book. We Have Always Been Here is more than one person’s memoir; it’s a record of who and what we are as a people living in a time of great migrations, of cultures bumping into cultures, of politics of exclusions. In prose as economical, crisp, clear, and truthful as poetry, Samra Habib offers a map of how we might - each and every one of us - 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 remarkable and unfolding meditation on self-discovery. Habib's voice is warm, honest, and spiritual. 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. Weaving together the threads of her family history with her sexuality, faith, and culture, Habib speaks for a community that has often been muted, but writes with a voice and style that is all her own.” (Rachel Giese, author of Boys: What It Means to Become a Man)

"A poignantly told memoir about a life fiercely lived.... 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." (Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about We Have Always Been Here

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    3 out of 5 stars

Terrible Narration!

The narrator is clearly not a native Urdu speaker! The articulation of the Urdu text is so cringe-inducing and completely takes you out of the audio experience. Would not recommend. What a waste of my Audible credit.

2 people found this helpful

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Captivating Listen

I listened to this every chance I got. I had heard about it through Canada Reads. I only knew a little about it so was slightly slow in the beginning but really helped tie the story together by the end. The narrator was easy and enjoyable to listen to. I do not know any of the authors native languages so they just sounded beautiful to me. A very captivating story of someone that inhabits many minorities we hear so rarely about.

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a stunning memoir

I love reading memoirs and listening to people's stories of their lived experiences. But Samra's story particularly resonates with me as an immigrant, growing up in an Iranian Muslim family. I couldn't stop crying while listening to the last 2 chapters! well written, vivid descriptions

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A New Perspective

As a Canadian, this felt like an important read. It sheds light on how the Canadian experience can vary. I listened to this book over a month ago and I still think about its significance.

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Best Narrator Ever! Plus a Great Story

This is by far my favourite narrator! I assumed she wrote the book. Can’t wait to hear more from this narrator plus the author of the book. Highly recommend.

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Breathtaking

I completely understand how this book has won awards. It is so insightful and brave.

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  • MD
  • 2020-07-17

Excellent read, start to finish

I was drawn to this book as a queer person in need of queer stories. I was not disappointed as I read about the author's life, really feeling the excitement in discovering who you are and the anxiety around family and community when you love them but they are silent or unaccepting of queer identities. The author's religious and POC perspective added a valuable element of the unfamiliar for me as an agnostic white person, I felt this book was equal parts relateable and eye-opening. The world needs much much more of this.

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Dedication to finding yourself

Samra’s beautifully told story of finding herself was heartwarming, enlightening and brave. She shows us that standing in our own light can be a form of protest and salvation that can literally save our lives and allow us to live in our own truth.

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  • Maria Fernandez
  • 2020-09-24

Eye opening!

I think this should be a required read for everyone, very well written and giving voice to an unknown world for me.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-01-31

A great perspective

Nice to shed light on something that I did not consider much of prior. Nice to hear a voice and point of view from a specific minority.