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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.
About the Author
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.
Praise for We Have Always Been Here:
“Habib writes through a lens of compassion, hope, and ever-widening circles of understanding.”
—Quill and Quire
“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
“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
“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
“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. In the way that her photography and interview project, ‘Just Me and Allah,’ turned a tender gaze at queer Muslims each insisting ‘I am here,’ Habib’s memoir demands ‘See my selves.’ 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, author of Infidelity and editor of Whatever Gets You Through: Twelve Survivors on Life after Sexual Assault
"A poignantly told memoir about a life fiercely lived."