Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Our Friend is Here: Pride Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond during the month of June, queer authors are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer author! Find the introduction post for Pride Month here.
‘Family’ is a theme that I will always love to read about in young adult fiction. Family, whether by blood or found, is incredibly important to us and the way that we form, shape, and navigate who we are as people in the world, and I feel like there’s no better age category for such explorations than young adult fiction. However, when I think about ‘queer experiences’ and ‘family’, the crossroads here can be fraught – and it can be doubly fraught for queer people of colour.
Today, I am overjoyed to host Adiba Jaigirdar, author of Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, and her incredible words for Pride Month at the Pond. Adiba visits us this year as a As you will shortly read, Adiba has written for us a brilliant and thought-provoking piece on why we need nuanced parents in YA, and I am excited for all of you to read what she has written. In a way, I feel like today’s post is a spiritual successor to the interview I did with her for Asian Heritage Month at the Pond last year, where she talked about her debut, The Henna Wars, being queer and Muslim, and family.
But, before I share Adiba’s piece, I’d like to introduce to you all her latest book, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating!
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
When Humaira “Hani” Khan comes out to her friends as bisexual, they immediately doubt her. Apparently, she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Cornered into proving her sexuality, she tells them she’s dating someone—Ishita “Ishu” Dey, the straight A student who seems more concerned with studying than relationships.
When Hani approaches her about fake dating, she agrees on one condition–that Hani help her become more popular so she can win the school’s head girl election. It’s the perfect plan to help them achieve their goals, until Hani’s friends become jealous that she’s spending more time with Ishu. They’ll do everything they can to drive a wedge between them and ruin Ishu’s chances of becoming head girl.
Now, Hani has a decision to make: does she break off her relationship with Ishu for the sake of her friends? Or does she tell Ishu how she really feels and turn their “fake” relationship into something real?
Adiba Jaigirdar: Why We Need Nuanced Parents in Queer YA
Ever since I was a kid, I have wondered why my parents are the way they are. And as I’ve grown older I’ve realised that my parents grew up within a very unique set of circumstances. And whether they realise it or not they’ve had a very traumatic past. The generational trauma of colonisation, mixed with surviving war, famine, genocide…it’s not a pleasant history that my parents have.
Yet, they never actually talk about it. Or when they do talk about the history of Bangladesh, it’s always almost detached. Like they weren’t children when so much of this was going on, or their parents and grandparents weren’t survivors of some really horrific things.
After I realised what my parents have in their history, and what’s in the history of my family, I became a better writer. Not because I wrote my parents’ trauma into every parental character, but because I felt like I could see parents for the people that they are. Flawed human beings who come to a story with their own personal baggage. And sometimes this baggage makes them be awful parents, sometimes it makes them into amazing parents, or sometimes people who are in-between.
But this baggage is actually really important when it comes to writing parents in queer YA, because as queer authors we also have our baggage. And a lot of the time, this is completely related to our parents. In so many ways, our parents are the crux of who we are. They brought us into this world and they’re the people meant to love us unconditionally. But for whatever reason, sometimes that unconditionality ends at being queer. So many of us spend our entire lives trying to live up to our parents’ expectations, or doing the exact opposite. But at the end of the day, it often goes back to them, whether positively or negatively. Our parents make up so much of who we are, and that’s why I believe we owe to our readers to give them all kinds of parents.
When I write about parents in my books, this is what I always go back to. Not my parents, but what I understand about my parents and where they come from.
Brown people will often tell me that they loved The Henna Wars because of how realistic Nishat’s parents’ reaction to her coming out seemed to them.
Brown people will also often tell me that even though they loved The Henna Wars, they found it difficult to reconcile with Nishat’s parents’ ultimate acceptance of her—because obviously it was completely unrealistic.
Which set of brown people is correct?
The answer is, obviously, both. Brown people are not a monolith, and that means our experiences with our parents as queer people of colour is also not monolithic. The problem comes when we try to apply our experience to the rest of our community, insisting that anything that we have personally not seen must be unrealistic, and therefore, bad.
But the thing is whether parents in queer YA feels realistic or unrealistic to our personal experience is probably the least important thing.
Like we need diverse queer YA, representative of a wide range of experiences, we need those books to have nuanced characters as parental figures. This means parents who reflect negative experiences. Parents whose love is conditional for their queer kids. Parents who leave the queer characters in a book with hurt and trauma. Even parents who are so negative to a queer characters’ life that they are barely present, or not present at all.
But we also need the flip side of that. We need the parents who show up for their queer kids. Whose love is unconditional and does not become conditional when it comes to queerness. The kind of parents who will go to hell and back for their kids—queer or not.
And even parents who are somewhere in-between. Who maybe need a little bit of time to come around. A little bit of time to understand what queerness is, and what it means to their kids.
And the readers who need to read these diverse range of parental figures are especially brown kids, because so many of us have been fed a stereotyped idea of who our parents are, without all of the history and nuance of what makes them human.
About the Author
Adiba Jaigirdar was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has been living in Dublin, Ireland from the age of ten. She has a BA in English and History, and an MA in Postcolonial Studies. She is a contributor for Bookriot. All of her writing is aided by tea, and a healthy dose of Janelle Monáe and Hayley Kiyoko. When not writing, she can be found ranting about the ills of colonialism, playing video games, and expanding her overflowing lipstick collection. She can be found at adibajaigirdar.com or @adiba_j on Twitter and @dibs_j on Instagram.