‘Nayra and the Djinn’: A New Graphic Novel by Iasmin Ata

‘Nayra and the Djinn’ is a fantasy for young readers about a girl who gets bullied because of her Islamic culture and befriends a folklore legend turned real.

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Iasmin Omar Ata is an Ignatz award-winning author who specializes in intersectional comics art, illustration, and game design. Iasmin’s art is centered around themes of coping, understanding identity, and how to conquer oppressive structures within society. With this new graphic novel, Nayra and the Djinn, Iasmin introduces Islamic beliefs, culture, and folklore to their audience. According to The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, “An ultimately hopeful coming-of-age story that expertly cues readers to emotionally connect with Nayra’s growth.”

The Plot of Nayra and the Djinn

Nayra is a Muslim American girl who receives guidance from a djinn who runs away from home. Right now, nothing is going well for Nayra, with family pressure, bullying from classmates, and her friendship demands from Rami – the only other Muslim girl at school. Nayra needs a break from it all, she wants a change, and she is considering transferring to another school.

Out of the blue, a mysterious djinn named Marjan appears. A djinn is a smokeless flame being that exists in a different realm from humans. Different types of djinns are either the water, sun, air, or mountain. This Islamic folklore is now right before Nayra, and it helps her navigate her crazy life and experiences. But Marjan also has a secret and guilt from their past that they don’t want to confront. 


My Thoughts After Reading Nayra and the Djinn

This was a new type of graphic novel for me because I never experienced Muslim culture. I am familiar with fasting and the premise behind it. This is a great middle-grade/ YA read about strength, identity, and friendship. The djinn, Marjan was reflecting Nayra in some way. Upon its arrival the djinn taught Nayra how to communicate, to calmly assess situations, and stand up for herself. 

There are many difficulties a girl her age faces, and witnessing the bullying and confusion on their faces gives a reflection on the reaction to what people don’t understand. She played volleyball and was part of a group but she was isolated. Her close friendship with  Rami was formed due to their shared culture and religious beliefs.

But ever since meeting the Djinn, Nayra is reforming, she is learning to open up and be closer to others. As Nayra is slowly progressing and developing new friendships, her mutual outcast friend, Rami, is suffering. Rami is sort of Nayra’s opposite, she relied on Nayra’s friendship because of bullying, and she couldn’t see a possibility of Nayra making other friends. This graphic novel is a great lesson on growth, supporting each other, and acknowledging one’s mistakes. 

The pastel colors and art style are unique and feel wavy. The shape of the djinns felt relaxing and the bright colors showcasing their realm helped it stand out when Marjan had their flashbacks. I definitely feel that the important lessons along with the graphics will fascinate young readers and young adults alike.

Nayra and the Djinn is already available to read.  If you want to read more of Iasmin Omar Ata’s work try reading Mis(h)adra. Order Nayra and the Djinn on Penguin Random House.

Interested in other graphic novels? Try checking out these articles on Bookstr: A Hayao Miyazaki Graphic Novel Is On Its Way or Vol. 4 Of Heartstopper Hits The NYT Bestseller List.