Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Movies Pop Culture

20 things you’ll totally get if you’re a real Bollywood lover

Since I was a toddler, I have had a deep love for Bollywood movies and songs. I believe that I would be a drastically different person if I had not been surrounded by Bollywood.  If you’re in the same boat, here’re a few things I know you can relate to:

1. You find yourself randomly quoting lines


Sometimes to the annoyance of people who have no idea what you’re referencing.

2. You catch yourself daydreaming while listening to Bollywood songs


Don’t pretend like this hasn’t happened to you.

3. Having way too much empathy for the actors


Their tears are your tears!

4. Getting super inspired by certain movies

Many Bollywood movies actually have some pretty deep life lessons. My favorites include Kapoor and Sons, Dangal, and Kal Ho Na Ho.

5. You spend way too much time trying to perfect the choreography of songs


They make it look so effortless.

6. Sometimes people in your social circle may be embarrassed by your FOB-iness


But like the honey badger, you don’t give a shit.

7. You need to get to the theaters early so you can watch upcoming trailers on the big screen


It may be the only time you don’t use desi standard time.

8. You have unrealistic expectations for life


Not to be a pessimist, but I doubt we’ll ever be able to dance to Chaiyya Chaiyya on top of a moving train.

9. You get super flattered when someone says you look like a certain Bollywood actress


It’s one of the highest compliments you can get.

10.  You play your favorite song on repeat…without headphones

Even if everyone around you goes nuts, each time you listen to the song you appreciate it more and more.

11. You have a love-hate relationship with “item” songs


They’re so catchy and yet the lyrics can be pretty objectifying towards women. It’s twisted.

12. You have at least one character who’s a role model to you

Who doesn’t want to be more fun-loving and authentic as Geet from Jab We Met?

13. You’re more excited about dancing than the actual wedding ceremony


Let’s be honest.

14. You have an opinion on everything Bollywood-related


Even as you’re reading this article, you’re probably analyzing whether you agree with it or not.

15. You feel the need to defend your favorite stars


How dare someone say Shah Rukh Khan’s too old?!

16. You have that go-to song to feel really empowered

Who doesn’t feel better after listening to Break Up song?

17. You also have that go-to song when you’re feeling really sad


These songs are so powerful, connecting us with each other through our sorrows.

18. You secretly hope that you find love like Rahul & Anjali’s


Even though Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had a pretty messed up storyline, I don’t think anyone would disagree that “pyaar dosti hai” (love equals friendship)?

19. Sometimes you forget that Bollywood actors are just as human as you are


Since we rarely see what goes on behind the scenes of the filmmaking process, it’s easy to forget all the effort that goes into it.

20. You don’t care what anyone else thinks of your love for Bollywood


Haters gonna hate. Always.

Movies Pop Culture

5 reasons why “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” should be renamed Crap Crap Hota Hai

I was a little nervous about all the Desi people running after me for hating on the major Bollywood movies.

But here we are again.

This time, it’s about Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, a ridiculous movie that tells almost every girl best friend that they will always be the last choice for their guy friend.

For those that are new to Bollywood, here’s a little breakdown: It’s a movie about two friends, Rahul and Anjali, and their friendship is ruined because Rahul ignores Anjali’s love and falls for the new girl, Tina. Years later, Rahul and Anjali meet again, and this time Rahul falls for her.

By the way, Tina died. That’s what makes this happen.

Oops. #spoiler


Apart from loving the story of how a widower’s daughter takes her mother’s advice and acts like a cupid in Rahul and Anjali’s love story, it’s stupid. Here’s why:

1. “But he’s your best friend yaar!”


This movie shows an excellent example of how friend zones ruin people’s lives. Anjali, who whole-heartedly loves Rahul, is friend zoned to the max.

She can never get out because she’s the one who he’ll cry to about his girl problems but he’ll never understand that she’s a girl too. She loves him, hates him, but she has no other option because he’s her best friend yaar.

2. Rahul/Bollywood men only like girly girls.


Almost all the movies I’ve watched showcase the same thing: men don’t like tomboys. If you have short hair, love sports and hang out with boys – you won’t have a chance at love.

If you’re a hot girly-girl who wears short skirts and makeup, you’ll score the hottest guy, no problem.

In another movie, Main Hoon Nah, the same thing happens: Lucky never loves his best friend until…..

3. You have to change your whole look and personality to be loved.

I’m being harsh, the tomboys are loved – but only after they change their whole look. In Main Hoon Nah, she gets a makeover to lure him – A MAKEOVER.

Similarly, in this movie, Anjali gets a makeover, because she understands the fact that she’s gon’ be alone if she stays a tomboy.

But Rahul makes fun of her. He makes fun of his best friend for trying to be pretty.


Why didn’t anyone remind him that she’s his best friend yaar? 

But a few years later, she exchanges her basketball shorts for a sari.


She even opts to play basketball in her sari by the way.

4. It’s totally okay to dance with an old love while you’re engaged.


Ah. The most famous scene of dancing without any music.

But Anjali, did you forget that he chose someone else over you, even when you tried to get his love?

Or, actually, did you forget that you’re actually engaged?


5. Douchebags are always placed on a pedestal in India.


So here we are again, with the men always screwing around with women’s lives.

Rahul doesn’t seem to be okay with the rejection of Anjali – so he goes to meet her on her wedding day to tell her, yo, let’s get married.

To be honest, all this movie was missing was the train scene, cue the music:


Just kidding. The last scene is from DDLJ, the other movie that I kind of hate.