Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors and Illustrators: Five Questions for Priya Huq

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2021 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors and Illustrators, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Priya Huq’s graphic novel Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab, Bangladeshi American Nisrin decides — to her mother’s distinct discomfort — to try wearing hijab.

1. What quality does Nisrin have that you wish for yourself?

Nisrin and I are really similar in core personality. We’re both playful and joyful by nature, and we can both be self-centered. I wrote her to be me if I had felt supported by my family after September 11th, so it’s less an intrinsic quality of hers I wish I had, and more that I wish my nani (maternal grandmother), my mom, and I had the relationship Nisrin has with her family members. I was much closer to my nana (maternal grandfather) growing up.

2. Did young you wear an orna or any other type of headscarf?

Yes! When I was little, I loved wearing an orna as a headscarf. When I got older, I always chose the shalwar kameez. I love the different cuts, patterns, materials, and embroidery.

3. What’s your wardrobe like these days?

Right now I’m wearing a black velvet A-line midi skirt, a Star Wars T-shirt that my cats tore a bunch of holes in, and fuzzy slippers. I wear leggings or jeans and T-shirts, but working on Piece by Piece made me want to be brave like Nisrin, so I bought a new shalwar and wore it out the other day.

4. Have you been to Bangladesh?

Only once, years ago. It makes me sad to think about all my relatives who I don’t see.

5. What did you get to do in Piece by Piece that you didn’t get to do in a comic before?

I’ve alluded to the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh in other work, but I’ve never talked about it so directly. Writing a family that was similar enough to mine to talk about these feelings and histories, but not so similar that I drowned in grief, meant that I was able to be more emotionally honest. It was hard, but it made me love Nisrin and her family. I hope I did a good job!

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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