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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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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.

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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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so many challenges faced

she brought light to so many issues faced in society all through her own complicated lens

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If you’re curious, you should buy

This was such a moving story, I loved it from start to finish. An amazing story about being a Muslim woman, queerness, artistic practice, being othered, being an immigrant. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

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a beautiful listen to a life

I'm an hour in and am enjoying it very much. it's healing to hear the stories of us wonderful humans. it's amazing to me how much it ours my own life into perspective. the description of the author's life in Pakistan is beautifully textured, coloured, related. I feel like I'm there with the family's struggles and achievements and delicious meals. thank you so much to the author. so beautiful... a window of opportunity towards understanding the complex culture we create.

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Very Interesting Story

This is a very interesting story, a well-written book and I wish Parmida Vand could narrate all the books I listen to.

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Amazing Memoir

This is an amazing memoir that opened my eyes to a things I didn’t know very much about. The narrators performance wrapped me up in the story and took me right into the moment. A must read (listen to) book!

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Just Didn't Grab Me

I struggled to make an emotional connection with the author, although the tale was interesting enough.

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Eye opening and engaging

I found this really interesting. I often take for granted the privilege of being a white Canadian, and welcome the reminders that everyone has a different journey in life

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  • Evan
  • 2021-03-31

Required reading for Queers and Allies

This memoir was absolutely excellent. The story is well written and weaves through the many elements of Samra’s identity. It is also incredibly relevant and important during this time as western civilization faces a fresh wave of Islamophobia.

The narrator did an excellent job as well and the story moves at a crisp yet engaging pace.

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  • Linda H.
  • 2021-03-28

Blessed to have read this book

I had to read this book for class but I am so very glad I did. It is a very enlightening and touching book that reaches not only to your heart but your mind.

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  • Catriona Sofi
  • 2020-12-14

Beautiful story about Queer and Muslim intersectio

I loved this book! As a Queer Muslima, I'm hoping many more books like this are published in the future.

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  • Shrewsie Shrew
  • 2020-12-08

Engaging memoir

I enjoyed listening to this memoir, the author is about my age and has lived a very different life from mine. Firstly this is a focused memoir, it's not about her entire life, it's about her immigration to Canada from Pakistan as a child, finding her queer identity, and rectifying that with her Muslim identity. She wrote the book after her photo portraits of queer Muslims were exhibited and garnered acclaim, as she realized that young queer Muslims might see her as a role model. I think this book is for everyone though. I was interested in her relationship with her mother-- healing that relationship after its many hurdles felt very familiar to me even from far outside of her specific experience. The narrator is excellent, and I enjoyed listening to this book. If you're looking for a similar memoir, All Boys Aren't Blue by George Johnson is about growing up Black and gay in the US.

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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.