Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is as heartwarming as it is fun:
Everyone likes Hani Khan – she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they don’t believe her, claiming she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship… with a girl her friends can’t stand – Ishu Dey.
Ishu is the polar opposite of Hani. An academic overachiever, she hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for university. Her only problem? Becoming head girl is a popularity contest and Ishu is hardly popular. Pretending to date Hani is the only way she’ll stand a chance of being elected…
We chatted with Adiba Jaigirdar on her touching novel.
Why is it important for Hani and Ishu to be merely acquaintances at the beginning of Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating?
When I started writing Hani and Ishu, I really wanted to explore how people of colour are often generalised in a way that is very dehumanising. A lot of people assume that if you are the same ethnicity, like Hani and Ishu have the same ethnicity, it means that you have everything in common. So, I started writing the book with the characters already recognising that this is something that would happen to them if they were friends with the aim to explore in the book that Hani and Ishu are different, but also similar, and that their fear of generalisation keeping them apart was a harmful outcome of racism.
Hani and Ishu wrote down a guidebook and some rules to their fake relationship. By the end of the book, what do you think will be in their guide to a real relationship?
I think they would keep their guide to a real relationship pretty simple. It would include having fun, being there for each other, and Ishu promising to try a new hobby.
Is it easier to write from Hani’s perspective or Ishu’s perspective? Who do you feel closer to?
I definitely found it easier to write from Ishu’s perspective. Her voice and personality is quite different to mine in many ways, and that helped me tap into it much easier. Hani, on the other hand, is a lot like I was when I was a teenager so she felt a little too close to me, which made her harder to write.
Other than Hani and Ishu’s relationship, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating also explores their differing family dynamics. How do the familial relationships tie in with Hani being a second-generation immigrant and Ishu a first-generation?
Hani being second generation means that her parents had to do a lot of their own integration before Hani was even born. One of the key things that happens in the book is Hani’s dad realising that he’s drifted from his religion, not necessarily of his own volition, but because he didn’t really have the chance to have a Muslim community once he immigrated to Ireland. So, Hani being second-generation ultimately leads to her parents being more understanding of her circumstances and putting less pressure and expectations on her. On the other hand, Ishu being first-generation means that she has seen her parents’ sacrifices first-hand, and feels like she owes them for everything they’ve done for her.
There are also so many important topics within Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, such as about cultural assimilation and toxic friendship, and it is heartbreaking to see Hani having to avoid mentioning her culture to keep her friends. What advice would you give to people in Hani’s position? How should they confront their friends?
The first piece of advice I’d give is to ensure that you are safe and have a support system before you consider confronting anyone. I also think it’s okay if you don’t have a confrontation at all, if your friend is as harmful as Hani’s friends are. Having been in a similar position as Hani, a lot of the times confronting someone means more harm than good, so it’s okay to simply distance yourself from the harmful person and situation. We’re often made to think that we owe everyone a conversation and a way to explain themselves, but if somebody’s doing real harm to you, particularly if they’re repeating racist and homophobic actions and words over a long period of time, you don’t owe them a conversation or a chance to explain themselves. If you do want to confront them, just go in prepared, having already thought about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Get your copy of Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating here.