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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Q&A with Adiba Jaigirdar

(Left to Right) Kersti Powell, Ph.D., Adiba Jaigirdar and Ben Vanelli ’25 discuss “The Henna Wars” at Cardinal Foley Campus Center April 18. PHOTO: LUKE SANELLI ’26/THE HAWK

St. Joe’s department of Irish Studies collaborated with the Consulate General of Ireland April 18 to host a discussion with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars.” The novel, a young adult queer romance set in Dublin, follows the story of Bangladeshi teenager Nishat after coming out to her Muslim parents. The Hawk spoke with Jaigirdar, who is a Bengali-Irish, queer and Muslim woman herself, to learn more about her writing process and the novel’s reception from readers. 

The Hawk: How does it feel that your work and your identities are being seen as relatable and important around the world? 

Jaigirdar: To me, it feels obviously a little bit flabbergasting because when I first moved to Ireland, nobody knew where Bangladesh was or what it was. Whereas now, I will be talking to my friends who have read the book, sometimes I will say to them, ‘Oh, I have to go to a dinner party,’ and they will refer to the word that I use for that and say, ‘Oh, you mean you need to go to a dawah?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I do need to go to that actually.’ To me, that’s just shocking. I came from being a child who didn’t have any kind of identity recognized to having so many people around me, or even people who don’t know me, know all of these things about my culture or my language, the life that I live. They know enough to reference it in casual conversation. That’s just amazing to me.

The Hawk: Why did you decide to write young adult fiction? 

Jaigirdar: When we’re teenagers, it’s such an important age. It’s when you’re trying to find yourself and trying to grapple with what your identity is and where you fit into the world, and I think that’s exactly when people need to read books that reflect themselves, and also books that reflect other people’s opinions, so they can understand what others are going through. Definitely with “The Henna Wars,” when I was writing, I was thinking a lot about who I was as a kid and the kind of book that I would have loved to read at that time. I do say that “The Henna Wars” — I wrote it for my younger self as well.

The Hawk: You described an honesty to this book that you attributed to your initially low expectations for its success. Do you think this genuine self-expression is a major part of what made it so successful?

Jaigirdar: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think the book is a little bit niche in what it talks about because there aren’t a lot of people who are remotely Bengali-Irish and queer and Muslim. There’s very few people who have that experience. But, in my opinion, I think that when you are talking about your own experiences very deeply and honestly, that’s actually when stories are at their most universal.

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Gavin Kuebler
Gavin Kuebler, Assistant Features Editor
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