Happy Saturday and welcome to my stop on the The Henna Wars blog tour!! I am so excited to be a part of this tour, and I’m even more excited for you to discover what Adiba would do if she spent the day with Nishat and Flávia! Read on to find out more about the book and author, plus follow the rest of the tour and enter to win a print copy of The Henna Wars!
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Published on May 12, 2020 by Page Street Kids
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, YA, Queer
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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.
If you could trade lives with any YA character for a day, who would it be and why? What about a week? A month, year, or forever?
For a day, I would trade lives with Lara Jean from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, mostly so I could use her baking skills to bake some really great cookies. For a week, I would love to be Rosa from Don’t Date Rosa Santos because the town of Port Coral and the community there seems so lovely. For a month, I would love to trade lives with Leila from The Light At The Bottom Of The World, because I could hang out in a world underwater and race submarines. For a year, I would love to be the MC from Summer Of Salt, because she has some pretty cool magical powers. The island that she grew up in also sounds so adorable and idyllic, and it has some really weird and wonderful traditions that I would love to see. Forever…I think that’s way too big a commitment. I’ll just stay myself, haha!
What would you do if you spent the day with Nishat and Flávia? Where would you go to eat, hang out, relax, etc.?
If I could spend a day with Nishat and Flávia, I think we would just have a really chill day in Dublin. They had a kind of stressful time in the book, so they can relax. We can go to the beach, have some Teddy’s ice-cream, and go for a hike in Bray (which is a seaside town near Dublin).
If Nishat and Flávia were to hang out with characters from other YA books, who would they be and why?
I think Nishat would hang out with Zayneb from Love From A To Z. I think they have a lot in common, and they would have great conversations together about race and religion. Flávia would hang out with Rishi. They both have a love of art so they would get on well, I think!
What was your favorite bit of research you ended up not using?
I did some research into different henna cultures around the world, and discovered a lot about the history of henna and also henna patterns in different cultures. Since The Henna Wars is mainly focused on Bengali culture, I couldn’t really include a lot about how different cultures have different henna patterns that they base a lot of their designs off of.
How do you feel about LGBTQIA+ rep in your work and how important is it to you to write diverse characters and storylines?
When I was writing LGBTQIAP+ rep in the book, I really just wanted to write as honestly as I could about queerness as I have experienced it, or as I have watched my friends experience it, along with the kind of queerphobia that we experience in the world. I also wanted to be in a conversation with the kind of queer stories that we already see in the media. For example, because there are still so few queer stories, many of them focus on coming out. I wanted The Henna Wars to play with that—to both be a coming out story and not be a coming out story, because to me coming out is something that we have to do over and over again anyway. So it’s unfortunately not a one and done thing. At the same time, queer stories are about so much more than coming out! I also really wanted to give weight to what it means to make the choice to come out, even if it doesn’t give you a positive result, and what it means to be outed against your will. Coming out and being outed are two things that a lot of queer people experience, and I hope that I was able to portray both of these things in honest ways.
I don’t ever write a story with the intention to write diversely, I only really want to write stories that feel true to me, and resonate with me. Because I am Bengali, and queer, and Muslim, many of the experiences of characters like Nishat and Flávia are part and parcel of my life. I have also been very fortunate to grow up with a very diverse group of friends, and to know people with very diverse experiences in life. Because of this, I don’t think it’s important for me to write diversely, but it is important for me to write in a way that honours the diversity of the characters and stories that I’m writing.
Can you share some things that we might not know about your characters?
When Flávia isn’t immersed in her art, she loves baking! She loves making Brazilian desserts, like brigadeiro, but also other sweets like cupcakes and cookies. She’s also a pretty good singer!
Nishat loves reading, and her favourite series is the Chaos Walking trilogy.
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.