Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

176 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by First Second
Source: Raincoast Books

Pashmina is, at its heart, a gentle tale of an adolescent grasping for her roots. Priyanka (or Pri as she likes to be called) is an Indian-American living with her mom in a suburb of some city in America. She has a happy enough life but she cannot get over a niggle sense of absence–she doesn’t know who her father is and her mother refuses to talk about him or about India.

When her mother’s friend and the closest thing to a father Pri has announces that he and his wife are expecting a child, Pri is thrown at sea. She feels usurped in her uncle’s affections and feels her lack of a father even more keenly. One day she discovers a pashmina, a shawl, in one of her mother’s suitcases. When she puts this pashmina on, she is instantly transported to a world of vibrant colour and meets two new friends who take her around this new world, letting her taste intense new flavours and experience things Pri has heard about but didn’t know were possible in real life.

She finds herself wanting to visit India to see if her experiences when wearing the pashmina translate into real life but her mother is resolute. There is no way she is going to allow Pri to travel to India on her own–and she refuses to return. Only when her mother’s estranged younger sister gives them a call suddenly does Pri’s dream of going to India become more than an eventual possibility.

The graphic novel is a simple exploration of diverging identities and the yearning for something that is in the blood if not in the bones. Your blood remembers a past your bones have not lived through. The book celebrates the intersection of feminism, religion, and culture reconciling the three even when some would say such a thing is not possible.

The art is beautiful and the resolution heartwarming. I adored this book and I know for sure that many Indian-American, Indian-Canadian girls will be left in tears at the chance to see themselves illustrated–to see echoes of their lives, their stories in the pages of Pashmina. Recommended,.

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