We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib
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.
We both have shaved heads.
We Have Always Been Here is one of those works that reminds you just how important memoirs can be. It solidified my love of memoirs and the power that they can have.
Samra Habib has one of those voices that deserves to be heard but is often quieted and pushed aside. We need more memoirs written by queer people of colour! I think so many people will see themselves reflected in Samra’s story and I hope that in doing so they will feel less alone. If you have the time I highly recommend checking out Samra’s ongoing photography project, called Just Me and Allah. The following quote is from her website and explains what the project is about and how it changed her life:
A few years ago, when I launched this photo project, I had no idea how it would transform my own life. What I didn’t realize at the time was that through listening to other queer Muslims’ stories and asking questions, I was trying to find the courage to share my own. I saw parts of myself in my subjects’ stories, whether they were refugees from Iran or kids from Brooklyn dealing with Islamophobia in their daily lives.
We Have Always Been Here not only touches on Samra’s experience as a queer Muslim woman, but it also highlights the difficulties of being an immigrant. We often think of Canada as being so welcoming and kind, but that is often far from the truth. As a Canadian, I so appreciate hearing Samra’s perspective and learning how immigrating affecting her and her family.
It is also a memoir about familial relationships as well as the importance of found families. Having people in our lives who understand us and who help push us to be the best and more honest versions of ourselves is so important. It was nice to be reminded of that. Samra has some awesome people in her life and I so enjoyed reading about them!
Very much! I think We Have Always Been Here is a memoir that everyone should read. It is only 226 pages, so it might be a good one to read if you want to dip your toe in to the genre!