by Nidhi Chanani
Published on October 3, 2017 by First Second
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Young Adult
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.
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This book wasn’t made for me.
I say that, having read it (and in approximately 30 minutes too so you know it’s interesting) and thinking on it for a bit afterward. Pashmina is about an Indian-American teenager, Pri, who doesn’t know much about her mother’s culture but soon finds herself eager to learn more.
First, the balance of cultural differences with the added bit of magic in the pashmina Pri finds in her mom’s old suitcase was really well done. I don’t know much about Indian cultural so I can’t judge whether this was good rep or not but I do believe that Nidhi Chanani is an #ownvoices author so I’d like to think it’s good rep and shows an aspect of life for an Indian-American teen.
I really related to Pri. She’s at odds with understanding who she is and the secrets her mother is keeping from her, primarily about her father. There’s also dealing with other family events such as her father figure having a new baby come into the world which takes away from spending time with her, and going through the motions at school where she has shown she’s a talented comic artist/writer but doesn’t believe in herself just yet. There are several layers to Pri’s life, each as relatable as the next.
There was also the addition of color graphics versus a dulled grayish-purple color. Each time Pri wore the pashmina, the images shifted to vibrant colors. It made for a very clear distinction and spoke to the idea of future possibilities with how bright they appeared.
But as I said at the beginning, this graphic novel wasn’t made for me. There’s a strong emphasis on Indian culture which I loved but also meant that I was flipping back and forth to the glossary because I wasn’t familiar with the terms. On the one hand it felt truly authentic but having to keep checking a word’s meaning or translation pulled me out a bit. My only other issue was that some of the transitions between scenes were abrupt and lacking in general. Sometimes the time jumps were shorter, sometimes longer, but the only transitions were flipping to the next page.
And for anyone curious, this story is more about the Pri’s development as a character and her journey to reaching that point rather than packed with action. There are some fantasy elements with the pashmina which are connected to Indian culture (I thought that was really cool) but this is otherwise more of a contemporary work.
I would absolutely recommend this graphic novel to anyone because it is an #ownvoices story and features an Indian-American protagonist who I think everyone would love to read about. Despite the issues I previously mentioned, this is a story that should be read and I highly encourage y’all check it out!