As many of you know I have been making a conscious effort to diversify my reading and educate myself about different cultures and lifestyles through fiction. Therefore, when I saw The Henna Wars around on bookstagram I was instantly drawn to it.
In a nutshell this is a YA book telling the story of a girl called Nishat whom is of Bangladeshi origin; without an active practising religion, who goes to a catholic school in Ireland. It follows her journey of ‘coming out’ as a lesbian to her traditional parents and ultimately to her school. Her love interest (Flavia) is also from a diverse background as she is half Brazilian, although Nishat isn’t sure about her sexuality.
The fact that Nishat is Bangladeshi is equally as important as her sexuality throughout this book, if not more. Without being supremely depressing and direct, we learn that Nishat and her family have been victims of racism within her predominantly white catholic school and the fear that others have to defend. The topic of cultural appropriation is also addressed through the non-Bangladeshi students practicing henna without appreciation for its history and symbolism. Although I’ve got to say, I’ve definitely received henna in the past just out of appreciation for how pretty it is!
The sexuality aspect of the book is reflective of Love, Simon and makes me sad that so many young people are outed in this way. As Nishat is coming to terms with her own identity and sharing that at her own pace with those important to her. A text message is sent to the whole school outing her. Nishat has her suspicions who sent the text message but is reluctant to report it in order to avoid more embarrassment and attention.
I’ve got to say, this wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read and it didn’t draw my attention very easily. It took me more than a week to read, which for an average length YA book is pretty long; especially since I had a week off work. But I did enjoy the short insight into a life of an individual already living as a minority who is potentially going to be more isolated due to her sexuality. Oh definitely makes me appreciate my privilege as a white heterosexual woman. If anybody has any recommendations for true life accounts I would be really interested too!