Review by: Wendy Guyer
As a sixteen-year-old, Nishat already has a lot going on in her life: balancing the demands of her Bangladeshi family, the demands of her Catholic high school, the demands of her social life in her town of Dublin, Ireland, and her own desire to come out to her family as lesbian. Life isn’t simple for Nishat, and the book The Henna Wars explores the various levels of complexity that exist for this protagonist.
The story mostly revolves around a business competition at Nishat’s school that pits Nishat’s henna business against the henna business of two other girls: Flávia, Nishat’s bisexual Brazilian-Irish love interest, and Flávia’s cousin, who has a history of bullying Nishat. As the businesses compete, more unfolds between the friendship and rivalry between Nishat and Flávia, as well as the experiences with their peers over cultural appreciation, cultural appropriation, microaggressions and outright hate crimes from her classmates.
At the other heart of this story is the complex relationship between Nishat and her family. Her once-liberal parents who seem to want the best for Nishat are not supportive when she comes out, and her more traditional extended family cannot see past their own personal perceptions of cultural implications for Nishat’s sexuality. It is her sister, Priti, who serves as Nishat’s confidant and biggest cheerleader and who carries Nishat through the ups and downs in the story.
The Henna Wars is a solid coming-of-age story that will give mirrors and windows to many readers. With themes of racism, homophobia, culture, love, and family, this is a powerful narrative of how Nishat handles the curveballs thrown at her while still trying to honor her own authenticity and her culture.
Publisher: Page Street Publishing Co.
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- Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2020)
- YALSA 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults (2021)
- Time Magazine’s 100 Best YA Books of All Time (2021)
About the Author:
Adiba Jaigirdar is the author of The Henna Wars, and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. Born in Bangladesh, Jaigirdar has called Ireland home since the age of ten and spends her time writing and teaching.
Reviewer: Wendy Guyer
Wendy has been living in India with her partner and two children since 2014, while also calling Asheville, North Carolina home. Wendy holds an MLIS and has 19 years of experience teaching prekindergarten through grade 7 in the classroom and in the library settings. She currently serves as the elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi.
Curator of the second #IntlYALitMonth at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative:
Linda Hoiseth is the high school librarian at the American School of Dubai and has previously worked at schools in the US, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Peru, Qatar, and India (where she worked with Wendy Guyer). She has a B.S. in English and Secondary Education, an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a graduate certificate in School Library Media. She’s currently a member of the ECIS Libraries Special Interest Group committee. She’s a fierce advocate for all students to have access to all the books. Follow her on Twitter.