I saw the word “henna”, then I saw the book cover, and it was in my TBR.
This book got me so excited. A sapphic story with a Bengali MC and Black love interest? Sign. Me. Up.
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.
reasons why you should read this book
I enjoyed this book so much! I think I read it in two sittings. It was too good to let go of. This review is definitely one where I try to sell the book to you.
Through food, henna, and family, this book talks about all the Bengali things.
Nishat’s parents migrated to Ireland from Bangladesh so they could give their children better opportunities but the whole family is very fond of their culture. Their love for it clearly shows through the book and it was so nice to watch.
A huge part of Nishat’s identity is her sexual orientation. When she comes out to her parents only to be received with stony silence and, later, flat out non-acceptance she is heartbroken.
Not only is Nishat lesbian but she also goes to a Catholic all-girls school and this adds another layer of hurdles. We see her trying to navigate all these situations in this book.
One thing I liked in this book was how the parents’ perspective was shown. Generally, we only see and talk about the main character’s experiences and struggles but we usually don’t ever get to really understand the parents or where they’re coming from.
the love story
Nishat and her crush Flávia’s story is friends-turned-competition-turned-lovers.
First of all, Nishat is SO CUTE. She’s absolutely adorable when she’s crushing. I have to say, the teenage feeling of having a crush was quite on-point here. The new-ness and excitement that comes with crushing on someone is a whole experience on its own.
I don’t have any siblings but I’ve always wanted a sister because of my mum’s relationship with my aunt. Sisters who are close in age are usually very close and it’s a relationship to cherish.
Nishat and her sister Priti’s relationship was like that. They support each other through everything and are very close. They’re pretty much best friends.
discussion on cultural appropriation
I really like how the reason why cultural appropriation is bad is shown in this book through events and not just talk. I’ll admit, I was confused about the concept when I first heard of it as well. And I can see why people who take elements of other cultures and use it to make a profit would think that they’re doing others a favour.
But through two small henna businesses run by high school students, Adiba Jaigirdar shows why cultural appropriation is hurtful and damaging.
When you “adopt” a part of another culture and make a business out of it, you take away the business from people of that culture. And more often than not people who appropriate culture get more business than the people representing that culture. And that is NOT. GOOD.
south asian and black representation
I already spoke abo there’s South Asian rep through the main character and her family. There’s also Black representation through Flávia, Nishat’s crush. There is also some light on micro-aggressions that Black people face through White family members.
While it talks about complex and heavy topics, it’s still a fun and bright young adult contemporary novel where two girls like each other. And it is so nice to read.
This is one of those moments that I want to bottle up and keep with me forever. Not because it’s extraordinary, or because it’s the kind of thing you would find in a Bollywood movie.
But because it’s the kind of moment I could never have dreamed of having in a million years.
Overall, I loved it and highly recommend it! It’s a cute childhood-friends-to-lovers sapphic YA story with soft sapphic girls. Pick this up.