Are You This? Or Are You This?
A Story of Identity and Worth
With Ellen Georgiou
A gay man’s memoir of hardship, courage, community and kin in the Arab world and beyond.
When Madian Al Jazerah came out to his Arab parents, his mother had one question. ‘Are you this?’ she asked, cupping her hand. ‘Or are you this?’ she motioned with a poking finger. If you’re the poker, she said, you aren’t a homosexual.
For Madian, this opposition reveals not who he is, but patriarchy, power, and society’s efforts to fit us into neat boxes. He is Palestinian, but wasn’t raised in Palestine. He is Kuwaiti-born, but not Kuwaiti. He’s British-educated, but not a Westerner. He’s a Muslim, but can’t embrace the Islam of today. He’s a gay man, out of the closet but still living in the shadows: he has left Jordan, his home, three times in fear of his life.
Madian has searched for acceptance and belonging around the world, joining new communities in San Francisco, New York, Hawaii and Tunisia, yet always finding himself pulled back to Amman. This frank and moving memoir narrates his battles with adversity, racism and homophobia, and a rich life lived with humour, dignity and grace.
‘A riveting and revealing journey of identity, politics and love in the Arab world. Brave in its honesty, and beautiful in its simplicity.’ — Rana Sweis, author of Voices of Jordan; journalist for The New York Times and others
‘Written with the poetic courage of someone who has experienced both the beauty and the trauma of the world. I wish I’d had this book fifteen years ago when facing the same questions about my many identities.’ — Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, poet and playwright
‘A courageous, timely and humorous journey through questions often silenced in today’s Arab world: sexuality, identity and belonging.’ — Ramzi Salti, Stanford University, host of the Arabology podcast and author of The Native Informant: Six Tales of Defiance from the Arab World
‘This fearless memoir, told with warmth and compassion, is an inspiration. Navigating deftly between family drama, social insight and poignant emotion, it is searingly honest and thought-provoking, driven by a desire for hopeful change. I loved it.’ — Matthew Teller, author of Quite Alone: Journalism from the Middle East 2008–2019
‘The story of a great man, full of emotions, pride, dignity and determination. A tale of hope in a world of colliding identities; a must-read!’ — Fadi Zaghmout, blogger and author of The Bride of Amman
‘A moving narrative of remarkable courage and sensitivity, which weaves together a tapestry of displacement and belonging, of seeking and giving refuge, and of seeing and insisting on being seen.’ — Safwan M. Masri, Columbia University
‘When I read this book, I felt that Madian Al Jazerah’s words were my own. A story not of guilt or shame, but of a citizen of the world who still loves his home country, despite rejection and suspicion.’ — Asmaa al-Ghoul, award-winning Palestinian journalist, and author of A Rebel in Gaza
Madian Al Jazerah is a Palestinian Jordanian who was born in Kuwait. In 1997 he opened Amman’s Books@cafe, the first internet cafe/bookstore in the Arab world. Since its founding he has been engaged in human rights work and LGBTQI activism.