“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 mute until years later, when I opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted and realized no one could hear me. Where I come from, voicelessness is the condition of my gender, as normal as the bosoms on a woman’s chest, as necessary as the next generation growing inside her belly. “
1. A Woman Is No Man opens up with an impactful statement about being voiceless and that being silent will save them, and to discover that years later it is false. How do you feel about that statement? Did this pique your interest and make you want to read her story?
2. Do you think that being voiceless in a gender issue or a cultural issue?
3. Culture and traditions are passed down from family. From a young age Isra’s Mama said to her ” A woman belongs at home.” How do you think Isra can break away from being limited to the home and her culture? Does it matter that she is no longer in Palestine and living in Brooklyn?
4. Isra’s father Yacob and his family had to evacuate from their seaside home of Lydd when he was 10 years old becasuse of Israel’s invasion of Palestine. Do you know much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Does it make you more interested in the Middle East?
5. Of the three generations, which character’s perspective did you empathize with the most, Fareeda, Isra or Deya?
6. What did you think about the violence and abuse in Isra’s and Adam’s relationship? Why did Isra let him take his frustrations out on her? Why did no one intervene? Why did Fareeda help Isra cover up her bruises? Who does that benefit?
7. How does Fareeda’s and Khaled’s relationship differ from Isra’s and Adam’s? In their patriarchal family, who do you think is in charge?
8. Books were the common thread between Isra, Sarah and Deya, why was that? What did reading books help bring to each person?
9. What do you think of Sarah? Do you think Sarah was brave for leaving her family? Why did Sarah leave? What does her action say about her? Why did she regret her actions?
10. How do you feel about Fareeda? Did you like her or do you not sympathize with her? How did your opinion of Fareeda change as you find out about her story? Do you blame her for her role in perpetuating the cycle of trauma? Do you think she could have done more in helping Isra?
11. Deya wanted to find out the truth about her parents and what really happened to them. Why do you think Fareeda held the truth from her grandchildren? Was she protecting them?
12. Why do you think Fareeda did not learn English? Why did she not go anywhere? What was Fareeda afraid of?
13. How do you feel about the key theme of tradition versus assimilation in the book? Do you think immigrants should assimilate?
14. Do you see similarities between oppressiveness of the Arab culture on woman and and other cultures?
15. What did you think of the ending? Did you like it? Did you find it confusing?
16. Did you enjoy A Woman Is No Man? Who would you recommend it to?
Enhance Your Book Club:
Check out the Study Guide: A Woman Is No Man for chapter summaries and more in depth analysis of the book, including characters analysis and key themes.
Don’t forget to check out A Woman Is No Man book review!
Enjoy this interview with Etaf Rum below.