How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don’t exist? Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. 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. Moderated by Laila Malik, join Habib for a reading from her triumphant new memoir We Have Always Been Here.

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 TimesThe Guardian, and The Advocate, and her photo project, “Just Me and Allah,” has been featured in Nyloni-DVanity Fair ItaliaVice, 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.

Raised in a Khaleeji desert in a time before cell phones, intricate highway networks and satellite television, Laila Malik is a desi east African word worker in Adobigok, the traditional territory of the Wendat, Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Métis, and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Her poetry, essays and short fiction have been published in Contemporary Verse 2, Canthius, The New Quarterly, The Feminist Wire, Sukoon (Arab arts and literature), Ricepaper magazine, FOLD Festival of Literary Diversity and QWERTY (forthcoming). Her work was longlisted for Event Magazine’s 2016 Creative-Nonfiction contest. She is working on her first poetry collection, an exploration of love, bereavement and inter-generational migration in a colonial world scored with secret messages from changing planetary geographies.