Interview with Samra Habib

3 min read

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.. We Have Always Been Here is her first book.

Follow her at @samra.habib

Girly Book Club: How did you get into writing and what inspired you to write your first book?

Samra Habib: I’m an introvert and writing has always been how I express myself. I recall my mom submitting stories I’d write as a child to children’s magazines in Pakistan. At least she’d tell me that she submitted them. I wrote We Have Always Been Here because I was ready to move on from everything I had been carrying with me my entire life, especially childhood trauma. Writing the book gave me an opportunity to take an honest look at myself and everything I needed to deal with and acknowledge.

GBC: What makes a book great, in your opinion? What elements does a great story possess?

SH: Being pulled into a world, a time or an era that is different from one’s own. Feeling like you’re invited into someone’s secret life. To me, a great book is like passing by a stranger on the street and getting to know them more and more after each encounter. Details start to become more meaningful the more time you spend with a stranger or a book.

GBC: What are you doing if you’re not writing?

SH: Reading and trying my best to be a present girlfriend. Being pulled into a world, a time or an era that is different from one’s own. Feeling like you’re invited into someone’s secret life. To me, a great book is like passing by a stranger on the street and getting to know them more and more after each encounter. Details start to become more meaningful the more time you spend with a stranger or a book.

GBC: Name your favourite bookshop in the world.

SH: I recently had a reading at Gay’s the Word in London, England and I loved the books they carried and the history that you can just feel at the bookstore. I recently came back from my London book tour and there are so many great bookstores there. Pages of Cheshire in Hackney is also pretty great. It’s such a cozy place and they only carry books by women, trans and gender diverse writers.

GBC: Physical book, e-book, or audiobook? – and why.

SH: Physical, I’m usually attached to my phone and my laptop. I like to ditch electronic devices when I can. There’s something about a physical book that forces me to pay attention. I also love to highlight and make notes as I read.

GBC: What was your favourite book as a child?

SH: I usually read adult stories in Pakistani women’s magazines my mom received at home. I was way more interested in what adults were up to. I do remember being obsessed with the Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel when I could access books in English.

GBC: We’re always on the hunt for our next great read. Recommend us a book to add to our TBR pile!

SH: My favourite Sarah Schulman book, Gentrification of the mind. I think it’s very underrated.

GBC: What is one movie, TV series, or podcast that you’re loving right now?

SH: My girlfriend and I just re-watched Wings of Desire and remembered how good it is. I’m also a big fan of Feel Good, which takes an honest look at addiction and queer love and why we fall in love. Mae Martin is brilliant.

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