Tahira in Bloom: Fashion Meets Romance Meets Gen Z

tahira

Fashion meets romance meets South Asian Gen Z in Farah Heron’s newest young adult novel, “Tahira in Bloom.”

The book, set to release on November 1, follows a third-generation Indian-Canadian Muslim teenage girl named Tahira Janmohammad. Tahira, a Toronto native, wants to be a fashion designer, and like all other desi families, has a Plan (with a capital P) created by her parents to get into the top design school and have her own fashion line. When her summer internship falls through, Tahira has to settle for Plan B: working at her aunt’s clothing shop in a small town called Bakewell, known for being the flower capital of Ontario.

But with her allergies to flowers and the rude yet gorgeous boy next door, Rowan Johnston, Tahira’s summer turns into one she won’t forget. The town’s annual flower-arranging contest is just what Tahira needs to capture the attention of renowned fashion designers in New York — but having no idea where to start, last year’s second-place winner, who happens to be Rowan, is her key to winning the contest.

Along the way, Tahira learns a lot about herself, what she wants to do and who she wants to be.

Heron beautifully captures the swoony romance of young adult fiction while encapsulating the journey of teenagers trying to find their calling in life. She sprinkles in all of the necessary ingredients: driven South Asian parents, confusing romances, fake friends next to true friends, microaggressions, city vs. country and so much more.

“When I started brainstorming ideas for my first YA book, I thought about the teen books that I enjoyed when I was a kid,” Heron said. “I finally decided to combine a fish-out-of-water romance with a team competition story. I added fashion and flowers because I wanted to write about beautiful things for my own self-care right now.”

Tahira in Bloom

“Tahira in Bloom” is a refreshing book by a South Asian author because it is not identity-centered. While most other books by South Asian authors focus on the pain and obstacles experienced by marginalized communities, which are important stories to tell, Heron chose to take a step back from that and portray a story where people of color can have their own happily ever afters. The motivation behind this decision was to portray the lives of third-generation South Asians of the diaspora, rather than teenagers who are children of immigrants, to provide diversity to the range of books following the lives of South Asian young adults.

“I think identity books for teenagers are incredibly important, as they let marginalized kids see the kind of difficulties they face in our society right now reflected in fiction… but I also think stories about those same kids without identity-based conflicts are equally important, and a little harder to find,” Heron said. “My own children, and teens like them, aren’t the children of immigrants, but rather the grandchildren of immigrants — their identities do play a part in their lives, but they aren’t struggling with it, or aren’t pulled between two worlds. Their families are assimilated, but still belong to the South Asian diaspora. Issues about experiencing first love, figuring out what to do with their lives, and growing apart, or closer to friends, are just as relatable for diaspora communities as identity-focused stories.”

And this aspect was what made the book feel like a breath of fresh air. It’s about South Asian teenagers seeing other South Asian teenagers have that happy ending, but without ignoring the inevitable microaggressions, racism and discrimination. Tahira wonders if she’s being used to check off the diversity box when she gets certain opportunities and recalls a teacher telling her she had never seen a Muslim fashion designer before, but she also thrives in the town of Bakewell and forges a path of her own.

Heron’s imaginative yet enthralling plot line kept the book moving forward until the very last page, as she drew inspiration from “the things [she wishes she] experienced.” It is, ultimately, a perfect book for South Asian teenagers to read and see themselves in.

“It means so much to me to have the opportunity to show South Asians teenage characters who look like them,” Heron said. “I love that I can help normalise our unique culture and show South Asian teens that they can be the lead characters in stories, too.”

Heron is the author of two other adult novels, “Accidentally Engaged” and “The Chai Factor.” “Tahira in Bloom” is for ages 14+ and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.