“We Have Always Been Here” Review

The cover has shapes that look like the heads and shoulders in multiple colors - light pink, dark pink, light green and dark green. The title is written out across the cover taking up most of it and then the authors name is at the bottom. There's a circle logo for the Canadian Reads that says it was the 2020 section for that award. Full Title: “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”
Written by Samra Habib
Published by Viking, June 2019
272 pages
Completed July 2, 2023

Samra Habib has spent most of their life searching for the safety to be themself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, they faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From their parents, they internalized the lesson that revealing their identity could put them in grave danger.

When their 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, their need for a safe space–in which to grow and nurture their creative, feminist spirit–became dire. The men in Samra’s life wanted to police them, the women in their life had only shown them the example of pious obedience, and their body was a problem to be solved.

So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes them to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within them 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.

This was a really interesting memoir. There was so much to learn and understand about Samra and their past. I really liked learning about their history and their exploration of their own queer identity. I’m glad that Samra was able to find themselves by finding other queer Muslims to be around. I also recommend checking out their photography project (which Samra talks about near the end of the book) Just Me and Allah which documents the lives of LGBTQ Muslims.

Note: Samra now uses they/them pronouns. While previous publications about them and descriptions of the memoir may refer to Smara with other pronouns they/them is correct and should be used.