Content/Trigger Warnings: Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, bullying, character being outed, mentions of divorce
“When matters of the heart are involved, it’s difficult to be careful.”
My heart it hurts, in all the best ways! I wasn’t expecting this book to hurt me the way that it did and I knew I would love this book from the start, but oh how I loved the experience of reading this book. This book is so beautifully written and it’s so much more than a cute romance of “enemies to lovers”. It’s so much more than that and it truly touched a piece of my heart.
We follow a Bengali girl named Nishat, who just came out to her parents and now feels the heavy weight of their rejection of her lesbian identity, and to prevent herself from crumbling in the process. On top of this harden silence, Nishat has to deal with the racism and homophobia at her school, while dealing with the culture appropriation happening during her business class’s competition by the girl she has a crush on.
I loved Nishat as our main character. She’s so unapologetically herself in a world that constantly tries to bend and break her. She’s fierce and she has no problem speaking her voice. I truly appreciate how the author took the time to pay attention to the little details with Nishat and her personality. The pay off is just beautiful, heartbreaking, and I think many readers are going to fall in love with her because of those details.
“What I want more than anything else in the world is to feel like being myself isn’t something that should be hidden and a secret.”
Throughout this book we see many relationship, many family dynamics. So let’s start with the family dynamics first. I loved Nishat’s family and how big it is. I love how we get moments with Nishat’s grandparents. I love seeing those bonds in book. We also have the family dynamic with Flávia. Flávia is from a single mother home and you know, I have a super soft spot for that family dynamic. Reading the experience Flávia’s mother went through made my heart turn to an absolute puddle.
As for the relationships, there’s two that really stuck out to me. The first relationship is between Nishat and her younger sister, Priti. I loved this sibling bond. You know I’m a soft heart for sibling relationships and the way these two love each other despite the hardships, just warmed my heart. This relationship spoke the loudest to throughout the whole book. There were times where the romance felt like it fell in the shadow of the sibling bond. The second relationship was between Flávia and Nishat. This romance was so precious and there were many times where I really wanted them to be together. There’s so many layers to their relationship and watching them come together was just a lovely experience.
However, this story is far from cute. If anything, the romance is cute, but this book deals with a lot of important topics. There’s a lot of talk of racism and homophobia laced throughout this book and all of it intertwines with Nishat’s culture, culture appropriation, and those making a profit off that cultural appropriation. Not only does the author handle this in many layers, but does it in a way where it gets the point across. The author also adds additional content to lighten the mood with lighthearted content and I really appreciated how well everything balanced out.
“Maybe… sometimes people don’t see the things they do as wrong, but they can see the wrong in what other people do – especially if it’s done to someone they care about.” I say “When it happens to someone else, it doesn’t feel as important as when it happens to someone we love.”
I can’t speak for the representation in this book, but I will link some reviews below that you should check out. What I can speak on is my own coming out. I was really blessed to not had a parent who was homophobic or reject my bisexuality in the way Nishat’s parents reject her. However, I’m Apache and coming out to my aunts and my uncle as two-spirited, it was something that still impacts me now. They still have a hard time processing that I like both men and women, they constantly have homophobic slip ups, and I constantly get questioned on my choice for not marrying someone who’s also Native. So seeing Nishat’s grief of having to hide who she is and feel her heartache echoing through these pages just rippled through my soul, and I could relate so much to Nishat in those moments.
I think the main reason why this wasn’t a full five stars was due to some missing details. I feel like we didn’t see enough of Nishat’s friends. I know they’re side characters, but I feel like there should have been more engagement in conversation between them than what we really got in this book. The other issue I had was how Nishat’s parents all of a sudden started to support Nishat and her lesbian identity. I think I just wanted more conversations to happen between Nishat and her parents, but I did appreciate that we see Nishat’s parents taking the time to try and learn.
Overall, I really loved this book and even though I only gave it four stars, it’s still getting placed on my top books for 2020. This book has so many important topics and they deserve to have the spotlight that they deserve. I loved how deep this story dived and I loved the growth of the relationships and connections throughout this book. And I’m not going to lie, finally seeing the racism being challenged in this book made my heart swell. I truly loved this book and I think many readers are going to fall in love with this book, see themselves within the pages of this book, and I can’t wait to see what else this author has in store for us.
Below are some reviews to take a look at, but you should uplift their voices and support them as well!
🏵️ CW’s Review
Read for Dragons & Tea Book Club August 2020 Pick 💚
2 thoughts on “The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar”