Samra Habib has won Canada Reads 2020 for her memoir, We Have Always Been Here, which was published by Viking Canada and Riverrun Quercus in the UK. The Handmaid’s Tale and Kim’s Convenience actress Amanda Brugel defended the book to a 4-1 vote on the final day. This marks the first time Canada Reads has been won by a book written by and defended by women.

“Samra’s writing is intelligent, raw and ultimately life-affirming. She bravely tackles her own experience with sexual assault, homophobia, religious persecution and Islamophobia in such a compassionate, accessible way that it compels us to tackle our own hardships with similar grace,” Brugel said during the Canada Reads 2020 finale.

Read more about the final decision making process here:

We Have Always Been Here is a national bestseller as well as a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Winner and longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize. It chronicles Samra’s childhood and adolescence as she moved from Pakistan to Canada. 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.

Samra Habib is a writer, photographer, and activist. As a journalist she’s covered topics ranging from fashion trends and Muslim dating apps to the rise of Islamophobia in the US. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Advocate, and her photo project, “Just Me and Allah,” has been featured in Nylon, i-D, Vanity Fair Italia, Vice, and The Washington Post. She works with LGBTQ organizations internationally, raising awareness of issues that impact queer Muslims around the world. We Have Always Been Here is her first book. Samra is represented by Samantha Haywood.