Published by Page Street Kids on May 12, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Blog Tour, The Publisher
Cover Artist: Nabigal-Nayagam Haider Ali
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Some bullying and a character being outed)
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
A portrait of coming out in a Muslim family, The Henna Wars explores the ways that our culture defines who we are—and the ways it can’t define us. Nishat knows that her family isn’t going to be happy when she comes out to them—after all, in her home country of Bangladesh, being a lesbian is punishable by death. But since her parents broke all the rules and married for love and then moved to Ireland for a better life, Nishat has hope that they’ll accept her. Unfortunately, acceptance doesn’t come easily—she’s basically told that she can’t be gay because she’s Muslim and that she’ll bring shame to the family. Meanwhile, Nishat is nursing a crush on Flávia, while also competing against her in a business competition where they both decide to apply henna as their business. Of course, Nishat is more than a little upset that she has to compete against someone who is appropriating her culture (and it makes it all the more hurtful that she’s crushing on Flávia and that it seems like Flávia should have respect for others’ cultures since she herself is black and Brazilian and has known what it’s like to have her culture stereotyped). This book is pretty light on plot (it gets better once the competition truly gets going) and I wasn’t always a fan of anyone’s choices (even Nishat’s), but it highlights how sexual orientation can be complicated by cultural and religious values. And the book also has important messages about cultural appropriation that I thought were handled really well. Nishat’s story is compelling, so you’ll want to keep turning the pages!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via FFBC blog tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Adiba Jaigirdar is a Bangladeshi/Irish writer and teacher. She lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent, England and a BA in English and History from UCD, Ireland.
She is a contributor for Bookriot. Previously, she has published short fiction and poetry in various journals and anthologies.
All her work is aided by copious amounts of (kettle-made) tea and a whole lot of Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe.
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