Etaf Rum was on “the right path” according to many of her family members. She was married with children and had several degrees and a teaching job. She was doing everything right, but she felt stuck. Despite her education, Rum was living out the same pattern as her mother and many of the women of Palestinian descent that came before her. Though Rum was born in Brooklyn, her parents were born refugee camps in Palestine where they were raised by parents who spent their lives in refugee camps.
Attempting to leave the trauma behind, Rum’s parents came to America, but they did not leave tradition far behind. In Rum’s household, men were still favored, and the best a woman could hope for was to marry and bear her husband a son. As Rum sorted out the complexities of her life as an adult, she realized something: she had never seen her story reflected on the printed page. She began to wonder: Why are the experiences of Arab-American women not often the subject of novels? Rum had never written before, but this newfound knowledge set her off, and she began to write with passion and purpose.
Her debut novel, “A Woman Is No Man” (Harper/2019) tackles arranged marriages, domestic violence, and the strict culture and shame of womanhood experienced by some Arab-American women. Rum joins host Frank Stasio to share the journey of writing this story, the backlash, and how she broke the pattern to find freedom.