A Woman Is No Man Summary & Study Guide

Etaf Rum
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A Woman Is No Man Summary & Study Guide Description

A Woman Is No Man Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum.

The following version was used to create this guide: Rum, Etaf. A Woman is No Man. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2019. The novel is broken into three parts, but for the purposes of this guide will be broken into eight sections. The novel begins without a chapter, heading, or defined character - but a female voice explaining to the reader how, “I was born without a voice” (1). The perspective ends as she explains that the story begins in Palestine.

The perspective changes to third person from Isra, in Birzeit, Palestine, in 1990. She is 17, and her parents have brought a suitor to marry her: a Palestinian man named Adam who lives in America. They go to Jerusalem to get her visa, and have a big wedding celebration. Her perspective ends as she hopes her life will be better in America.

Part 1 begins from Deya’s perspective, in 2008 in Brooklyn, as she prepares mint chai for a suitor, Nasser. She is 18, in high school, and wants to go to college, but Fareeda wants her to get married first. She meets with Nasser in the kitchen while his parents talk to her grandparents. Afterwards, Fareeda tells her Nasser wants to see her again, and she begrudgingly agrees to meet him again. Later that night she tells her three younger sisters Nora, Layla, and Amal about him, and they talk about their parents who died in a car accident when Deya was seven. Deya thinks about her memories of her father beating her mother.

Isra lands in New York and Adam takes her home to Brooklyn, where they will live in the basement of the family home. That night he forces her to have sex and wipes her vaginal blood as proof of her virginity. Isra falls into her new pattern of life with Adam though she quickly does not like it. He works all day and late into the night and barely pays attention to her. All she does is chores with Fareeda, or stares out the window. Deya meanwhile listens to her friends at school talk about their weddings and decides she does not want to get married but go to college. Fareeda shows her an unsent letter from Isra to her mother dated 1997 that shows how depressed Isra was. Deya asks Fareeda to tell her the truth about her parents' death, but Fareeda tells her to move on.

One day, Deya receives a letter with a business card for Books and Beans. She calls the number and a woman refuses to tell Deya her name but tells her to skip school, and come to Manhattan to meet her. Isra meanwhile gets pregnant. She also grows closer with Sarah, Adam’s younger sister, and Sarah offers to bring her books but she declines. Part 1 ends as Isra delivers her daughter Deya, to Fareeda’s chagrin.

Part 2 starts with Fareeda’s perspective for the first time, as she tells Isra not to breastfeed so she can get pregnant again soon, and four months later she is pregnant. Isra’s second pregnancy is tough, and Adam’s moods are increasingly volatile. Fareeda goes to Palestine to bring home a wife for Nadine, and that winter Isra gives birth to a second daughter, Nora. Deya, meanwhile makes her way to the bookstore in Manhattan and finds Sarah. Sarah never married or went to Palestine, instead she ran away from home and wants to tell Deya she has choices.

Soon though, Isra gets pregnant with her third child. Deya keeps visiting Sarah, and Fareeda keeps bringing suitors for Deya. Isra gives birth to a third daughter, Layla, while Nadine gives birth to a son. Adam starts beating Isra soon after this. Isra asks Sarah to bring her books. Sarah advises Deya to fight back and apply to college.

Fareeda, meanwhile, is increasingly concerned with finding a suitor for Sarah. She also keeps putting work on Adam’s shoulders and tells Isra to have another child. Isra feels too tired and overwhelmed to have another, but soon she is pregnant. Deya meets again with Nasser who hints at a big family secret she does not know. She demands the truth about her parents from Sarah, who hands her a newspaper clipping. Part II ends as Fareeda thinks about her first born twin baby girls that died in her arms at the refugee camp.

Part III begins as Deya learns from Sarah’s clipping that her father murdered her mother, then killed himself. She tries to convince her sisters to run away but they refuse. She confronts Fareeda who admits the truth but claims this is the result of the jinn haunting her from her deceased twin daughters. Isra, meanwhile, feels more and more depressed and isolated, and even Fareeda notices it. One night Adam beats her bloody making more threats, and she runs away. Fareeda and Khaled come to pick her up but she does not know what to do. Deya goes back to Sarah asking to run away, and Sarah keeps pushing her to confront Fareeda instead.

It is now Spring of 1997, and Sarah has no suitors, which makes Fareeda suspicious and she beats Sarah when she comes home from school. Deya meanwhile keeps confronting Fareeda and Khaled over her mother’s life and death to learn more. Sarah decides to run away, and does. The beatings continue for Isra and grow more severe. She self-aborts a pregnancy because she is so depressed, and worried about her daughters' futures. Fareeda, in 2009, breaks down and gives Deya the letters Isra wrote to her own mother that were never sent. Deya decides her fate is in her own hands, and applies for college, and is accepted to NYU where she decides to write her own story. Isra, in the fall of 1997, decides to escape, taking her four daughters to the R subway train to get away. The novel ends as the doors to the train open and Isra feels relief that they will finally be free.

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