Graphic Novel Review: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
ISBN: 978-1626720886
Source: BEA 2017
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Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions―the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

***

Pashmina is the debut graphic novel by artist and writer, Nidhi Chanani, a graphic novel you will want on your shelf this fall. It tells the story of a young girl, Priyanks who discovers that he mother’s pashmina transports her to a picturesque version of India, which she then explores often alongside her guides, Kanta and Mayur.

There’s a lot explored here in this story which takes us back and forth between Priyanka’s everyday life and her fantastical adventures. In everyday life, Priyanka is a student who likes to draw and she has a teacher who believes in her, a friend who genuinely cares about and supports her, and a passion that drives her.

She also has a family friend who she respectfully calls Uncles and finds herself growing distant with once he and his wife announce that they are expecting their first child. That feeling of abandonment is real and it’s natural and not just reserved for children who discover they will no longer be the only child or the “baby” of the family, so I’m so glad that this was reflected upon with the time and care that it was here.

What drives this story home one might say is the dynamic between mother and daughter and what’s behind the bond, what and who is protecting that bond, and what that means for the future of the women that they’ll impact. Pashmina is a story about history and choices and making our story one of fearless choices. It’s about faith and family, fear and finding yourself, accepting your whole cultural identity rather than only the safest parts, and pushing back against the fate people set out for you to give yourself the destiny that not only you deserve but the people around you deserve too. What a powerful story. I really needed more of this kind of book as a kid, as a female POC so I am so, so glad that this book is out there for young POC girls today.

As for the art? What a gorgeous cover! As well as the inside! The illustrations are divine, especially the structural use of grayscale in Priyanka’s everyday life vs. color which is so rich and vibrant and portrays life beyond the pashmina. It’s such a metaphor and is so encouraging in regards to thinking about how we live our lives in terms of what we can control. Do you choose to write, to live in color? And as a WOC, the double entendre of do you step up to be the best WOC that you can be for yourself and for those WOC who will walk the path after you? This book is loaded with gems, best of all is the gem that Priyanka realizes and understands how to appreciate in the end.

There were some moments here and there where I wouldn’t have minded more clarity in regards to the transitions and time but other than that, I really, really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in checking this out. Also, for those unfamiliar with Indian terminology, there is a glossary in the back of the book. I really hope that you enjoy this graphic novel as much, if not more than I did. Be sure to pick it up this week!

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is available now.

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