Pashmina
By Nidhi Chanani
Published by First Second
Age Range: 10+

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“…the first (graphic novel) written and illustrated by an Indian-American creator, this is both a needed contribution and a first-rate adventure tale.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Description
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 finds 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.

 

Reviews & Accolades
Following Pri as she explores her Hindu religion and her single mother’s native country of India in search of identity and meaning, Chanani masterfully turns the complex immigrant narrative into a magical and captivating work of art…This finely embroidered tale beautifully unfolds, much like the sacred pashmina. Every character, speech bubble, wordless panel and choice of color serves the story in meaningful ways. Chanani has created an immigrant narrative that is suitably complex, capable of grappling with identity, mythology and magic right alongside the practical choices girls and women face in cultures in which their oppression can be concealed by beautiful exteriors.”  —The New York Times Book Review

Priyanka is the teenage daughter of a single mother from Calcutta who won’t answer her questions about why she came to the U.S. or who Priyanka’s father is. “In India I would never talk this rude way to my mom,” Priyanka’s mother chastises. Mean girls make school rough; drawing is Priyanka’s only solace. A silk pashmina in her mother’s closet gives Priyanka the ability to see India, the homeland she’s never visited, in sequences that explode with vibrant color, in contrast to the dark purples Chanani uses for Priyanki’s everyday life. When she’s finally able to travel there, her aunt answers the questions that have blighted Priyanka’s relationship with her mother, and the pashmina gives her a mission. Newcomer Chanani’s figures lean toward cuteness, softening the story’s darker moments. Most impressive is the way Chanani keeps the story’s distinct and fascinating plot elements spinning. One work can’t represent a whole subcontinent, but readers will come away with a living sense of a small part of it—and characters to care about.“—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“The goddess Shakti, a shawl woven decades ago, family secrets, the pressures on women in the world, and a teenaged girl’s longing to find the place of her heart are the ingredients of Nidhi Chanani’s tender graphic novel. Priyanka Das, raised by her single mother in America, knows little of her mother’s native India. She is bursting with questions that her mother refuses to answer. When “Pri” discovers a pashmina shawl hidden away in a suitcase, she tries it on—and is magically transported to a kind of tourist-video version of India, featuring such iconic stops as the Taj Mahal, a sari shop, a jungle with exotic fruit, sandstone palaces, and more. A peacock and elephant as guides round out what most visitors would find utterly satisfactory, so why does this not feel “real” to Priyanka? It’s not the India she’s searching for. Moreover, a mysterious shadow seems to be following her, trying to convey something she cannot understand. The brief, magical excursions only wet her appetite for more. It’s not until she goes to India with her mother’s blessing that Priyanka grows into her own choices. A self-referential twist adds a pleasing surprise to the last few pages. Chanani takes on immigrant identity, relationships, silence between a mother and a daughter, and inventiveness and loss inherent in a blended image of oneself. These are not new tropes, but Pashmina treats them with a fresh and genuine energy as the storyline dances between the color generated by the shawl and the black-and-white of everyday existence. Layers of story point toward hope for a young protagonist with realistically complex motivations and longings. Additionally, stereotypes and prejudices are gently spoofed in this lovingly crafted work.”  —Children’s Literature

“Priyanka is a teenage girl who loves to draw. Her mother emigrated from India years ago, leaving Pri’s father behind. Pri is eager to learn about her father and her Indian heritage, but her mother refuses to discuss the subject. Then Pri finds an old pashmina in her mother’s suitcase, and when she puts it on, she is magically transported to the India of her dreams. Pri is greeted by an elephant and a peacock, who offer to show her around the country. Though they provide some answers, they inspire even more questions, and Pri must figure out how and why reality and her dream world overlap. This heartwarming story about family problems and female empowerment will inspire readers to make their voices heard. Much of the artwork is reminiscent of the illustrations in Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost: black-and-white with clear thick lines. Whenever someone dons the pashmina, the pages are suddenly drenched in rich colors. This dazzling blend of realistic fiction and fantasy is perfect for fans of characters who have to overcome obstacles on their way to growing up.”  —School Library Journal (Starred Review)

In this feminist graphic novel, a young woman searches for the truths of her past with the help of a long-lost aunt; Shakti, the Divine Mother Goddess; and a mysterious shawl. Indian-American teenager Priyanka “Pri” Das, a talented artist and a bit of a loner, wants to know both why her deeply religious mother left India for California so abruptly years ago and her father’s whereabouts. But Pri’s mother refuses to speak of India: “That subject is permanently closed.” Soon, Pri discovers a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase in her Los Angeles home. When she wraps it around her shoulders, she is transported to an imagined, romanticized India—one as colorful as a Bollywood movie, in contrast to the black-and-white images of her everyday life. There, a talking elephant and bird introduce Pri (and readers) to the country’s festivals, foods, and fashion, but Pri knows this isn’t the “real” India. To find “her” India and uncover her mother’s secrets, Pri will travel to the subcontinent, where she learns about women’s choices—especially her mother’s—and living without fear. While the book covers well-worn territory about bicultural and immigrant conflicts, it also dramatically explores the ways women are constrained by patriarchy. Pri is the daughter of a single mother, a family structure rarely represented in young people’s literature of the South Asian diaspora. An original graphic novel, the first written and illustrated by an Indian-American creator, this is both a needed contribution and a first-rate adventure tale.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Groups Represented
Indian-American

Themes
#OwnVoices
Cultural Identity
Family Relationships
Family Separation
Gender Roles
Identity
Immigration
Migrant Life
Religious Faith
Separation & Reunion

Setting
India
United States (Los Angeles, CA)

Engagement Projects & Resources
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