The complexity and dangers of post-9/11 America are evoked in the first few pages of Priya Huq’s new graphic novel, Piece by Piece, The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab. Nisrin and her friend are walking home after “World Cultures Day” at their middle school when a White supremacist attacks them, wounding Nisrin as he rips the scarf from her head. Nisrin struggles to heal from that trauma, and makes progress when, despite some family objections, she chooses to wear the hijab as a symbol of pride and resistance.
“I wanted to write something for young people that explained what life was like when I was their age,” says Huq. The challenges of surviving Islamophobia and racism often fall on very young shoulders. Huq’s story helps by providing cultural and emotional context, while reassuring young people that they’re not alone.
Portland, Oregon. 2002: Celebrate World Cultures Day
“Alright, big hand for Nicole! Nigeria sounds beautiful!”
“Next up is Nisrin … who’s going to tell us all about Bangladesh!”
“WOO! YEAH! Tell ‘em Nisrin!”
“So, so? Did I do a good job?”
“I told you already, yeeeeesss.”
“Are you sure it’s okay if I come over?”
“Uh, yeah! My Nani loves you.”
“Speaking of … she shows her love with food … so she’s going to try to feed you like a hundred times tonight.”
“Good. I’m gonna eat so much I explode.”
“noooo I’ll miss you.”
“How come you didn’t do your presentation on Iran?”
“Let me see your scarf a minute.”
“Ah ah ah! What did we learn today, what’s it called?”
“NoOOooooOO, it’s an —FIRST OF ALL, IT’S AN ORNA! And secondly—”
“HEY! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE LAUGHING ABOUT?”
“F@#$&*# @&#$ @*#&#&@&@. Walking around like you own the place.”
“I could kill you and no one would give a $#%€.”
Adapted excerpt from the forthcoming Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab, by Priya Huq, appears by permission of Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, © 2021
Priya Huq is a Bangladeshi-American cartoonist from Austin, Texas, who enjoys working in water-based media. Her stories deal with complex emotions in both real and fantastic locations. In her free time she likes to drink tea and look at trees. Huq has contributed to The Nib and other online publications. She lives in New York City with her spouse and two cats.