In January, Project Open Books donated 20 copies of The Henna Wars to students in the Pride Alliance at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Southern Connecticut. The students were looking for a book that would offer them diverse representation and a unique perspective from the queer community. They chose Adiba Jaigirdar’s novel because the protagonist is both a person of color and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The students began reading shortly after receiving the books, but our partnership with the school did not stop after donating them. In the month that followed, we worked with Adiba’s publicist to coordinate a virtual author meet-and-greet with the students. This was no easy task, as Adiba is based in Ireland, so finding a time that worked for both her and the students was an initial challenge. We also wanted to respect Adiba’s observance of Ramadan (April 2 – May 2) and not schedule a meeting during that time.
Perseverance prevailed, and at the end of March, the students finally had the opportunity to meet Adiba! The students came prepared with questions for her, which included questions about her writing process, queer representation in Ireland, and cultural questions about Adiba’s upbringing in Bangladesh and her move to Ireland. The meeting was facilitated by the school’s Head Media Specialist and our Communications Officer, who helped field student questions.
After the meeting, both Adiba and the students expressed their gratitude for the work Project Open Books did to organize this event. Adiba shared that her favorite part about being an author is meeting the young readers for whom she writes, and the students similarly enjoyed the chance to meet the author of the book they’d been reading the previous two months.
Project Open Books is excited to sponsor future book clubs and replicate this experience, providing students and authors the opportunity to connect.