Priyanka or “Pri” lives in a world where she does not fully understand who she is or where she came from. Her mom mysteriously left India and hasn’t spoken to their family in over a decade. Whenever Pri inquires about her Indian father, her mother changes the subject. Both mother and daughter fail to understand each other’s motivations, creating an angsty relationship. While struggling with her identity, the sphere of Pri’s family also starts to see cracks. Her Uncle Jatin, a father-like figure that picks her up from school and takes her on special Indian foodie adventures, and his wife are having their first baby. With her world falling apart, Pri prays to the goddess Shakti, a silent wish that changes her outlook on life and current and almost self-destructive course. With such serious tones, add in a magical pashmina made from Indian golden thread, and Pri finds herself on a more whimsical journey of self-discovery. Pri visits the fantastical, idealist, and tourist version of India as well as the realistic homeland, ultimately returning to America with a new sense of culture and self.
A tale of South Asian diaspora and non-traditional families, Pashmina is a perceptive graphic novel for middle grade students and mature elementary school aged readers. With First Second Books, reviewers and readers can count on a well-written and researched as well as sensitive and intuitive story. The black and white comic strip graphics juxtaposed with the Bollywood colors beautifully portray this “otherness” and sense of a globalizing falsehood about imagined tourist India, similar to Kincaid’s experiences in Antigua in A Small Place. As Pri’s classmates call her “Thrift Store,” readers witness racism and classism. Chanani has created a unique multicultural story that works for reluctant readers and those struggling with heritage and family. Most notably, Priyanka is a fearless female protagonist who has faults of jealousy and immaturity but also thrives artistically and in her convictions. The pairing of fantasy and realistic fiction via graphic novel format brings this story home, literally and figuratively.
I would like to thank NetGalley and First Second Books for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. Pashmina is set to publish October 3, 2017.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (First Second Books, 2017)