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The #ReadWithJenna book club continues! This month, Jenna Bush Hager picked the heartfelt novel "A Woman is No Man" by Etaf Rum.
Taking place in an insular immigrant community during both the 1990s and 2008, the heartfelt book brings culture, family, and the role of women into the spotlight.
Throughout May, we've been posting some questions on our TODAY Instagram Page, and have loved seeing the conversations that were started in response! To continue this discussion, the publisher behind "A Woman is No Man" shared some questions to think about when you've finished reading.
"A Woman is No Man," by Etaf Rum, $18, Amazon
"A Woman Is No Man" Discussion Questions
- For Etaf Rum, writing "A Woman Is No Man" meant violating the code of honor of her community. Why might a community or culture have a “code of silence”? What are the potential risks of such secrecy? What kind of catalyst might it take for someone to violate such a code?
- Formative role models are shaped within the family early in life. They teach us core values about love, respect, honor and honesty. Isra’s role model for love between a man and a woman showed her that abuse and subservience of women was normal. How does one reconcile what they learn at home with what they learn in the world?
- The cost of Etaf’s decision to write this novel was to be shunned by parts of her community. Have you ever had to fight hard for what you believed? What have you been willing to sacrifice in such a struggle?
- Education is a driving force for Deya, despite the fact that her community prioritizes marriage and motherhood for women. How has education shaped your life and contributed to your success? How do you value your education?
- The significance of Etaf’s title, "A Woman Is No Man," resonates in different ways depending on how you view women’s role in society. How do these cultural expectations shape how we understand the roles of men and women both in the workplace and at home?
- Deya was born in America, yet raised to be Palestinian in an insular community in Brooklyn. Can you imagine what it would be like to be exposed to American culture, yet forbidden from adopting it? Why do you think Deya’s family places such a strong emphasis on her heritage over the place she grows up? How many generations did it take your family to feel completely American?
- Like Fareeda in the novel, historically many women have stayed quiet about abuse they’ve suffered. Today, many women are speaking out about abuse they have faced in and out of the workplace for the first time. How have things changed for women in today’s society? How have they not?
- In "A Woman is No Man," Deya is fighting for control over her life. Why is the idea of taking responsibility for your own destiny such a powerful one? Do you feel as though you have control of your destiny? Why or why not?
- Arabs and Muslims are often stigmatized in popular American culture. How might this bias impact abuse victims’ ability to improve their circumstances?
- In "A Woman is No Man," several characters reflect on the pressures put on men. How are the men in the novel also failed by societal expectations? In what ways do the men use these pressures to justify their actions? Have you ever witnessed a person use stress or suffering as an excuse for their behavior?
- In the novel Etaf explicitly separates Islam and Arab identities as distinct from one another. Why do you think so many people are eager to conflate the two? Why is it important to ensure this distinction?
- Ultimately Deya advocates for herself and breaks free from her family’s prescribed path. Are there any family traditions that you have had to fight in order to forge your own path?
- In the novel, women and men are both complicit in enabling abuse. Why do you think women don’t do more to prevent their children from suffering the same ways that they did? Do you have any experiences of women enforcing norms that seem sexist to you?
To stay involved all month long, be sure to follow us on Instagram (don't forget to tag your photos with the hashtag, #ReadWithJenna) and join our Read With Jenna Facebook group to continue the conversation about "A Woman Is No Man."
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