Book Review

Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar

With Her Moving Memoir ‘Love Is An Ex-Country,’ Randa Jarrar Overcomes Oppression In Its Many Forms

Maria Chance
Jul 14th, 2022 5:04 pm

In Love Is An Ex-Country, Randa Jarrar takes us along on a journey as she shows us glimpses of her life. Born in the United States to refugee, Palestinian parents, Jarrar faced racism in one of the oddest ways: because she is white-passing, white people try involving her in their racist ideologies. Thus, she’s had the unique experience of witnessing racism, from the outside and from within.

Though systemic racism is a prominent topic throughout her memoir, Jarrar also goes into harrowing detail recounting the abuse she endured from the men her entire life — having to unpack abuse in its physical, verbal, and psychological forms. First, from her father, and later in life from the men she would go on to date or marry. Falling into relationships with abusive men seemed like a cycle Jarrar had been unable to break, serving as a metaphor for so many other forms of oppression Jarrar encountered as an overweight, Muslim woman living in the U.S.

From admitting how liberating and equally terrifying it was dealing with the backlash of a tweet aimed at exposing Barbara Bush’s racism soon after her death to depicting her nightmarish experience of being denied entry into Palestine when trying to visit her sister — the reason, likely for being the author of a sexually-explicit novel — we follow Jarrar’s narrative, wide-eyed with shock but also full of hope. We watch her learn to love and accept her own body. She takes ownership of her body, turning away from one-sided relationships, experimenting with BDSM, and even venturing into same-sex relationships. Jarrar learns to own her voice, too, as she becomes vocal about racism and the injustices people of color are made to endure, not just in her native country, but around the world.

Though at times the narrative seems to lack cohesive flow, and the description can be misleading, seemingly promoting a road trip style memoir, which is not the case, Love Is An Ex-Country never loses its candor. Jarrar always speaks openly and freely, knowing that as a writer she has a responsibility to always speak her truth, despite the consequences.

Jarrar’s story is nothing short of inspirational. She proves that in spite of life’s challenges, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Though life has thrown many obstacles her way, she’s always managed to overcome them, has always come out dancing to the beat of her own drum.

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About the reviewer

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Maria Chance
  • Freelance Developmental Editor
  • Book Reviewer & Editor

A self-proclaimed hermit and potential cat hoarder, Maria lives in Virginia where she writes, proofreads and copy edits as a freelancer. Her longstanding love affair with books began when her mother would fall asleep reading bedtime stories to her. (Don't worry; she was sure to wake her up so she could finish.) Now, as an adult, Maria struggles with a reading vice that has often threatened the hygiene of her home. On the few occasions that her nose isn't buried in a book, she enjoys exploring new cities, having margaritas with her sister, and curling up with a book--wait, what?