Today, Nidhi Chanani, an Indian-American illustrator awarded by the White House as a Champion of Change in 2012 and the creator of Every Day Love, released her first graphic novel Pashmina. Published by First Second, the story focuses on Priyanka, a teenage Indian-American girl grappling with her family’s cultural heritage and her mother’s refusal to discuss why she left India– and Priyanka’s father– behind. Then, one day, Priyanka discovers a mysterious pashmina locked in a suitcase that transports her into the India of her dreams! But is it real?
When asked on how it felt to see her first graphic novel go out into the world, Chanani told the Beat that she had been “anticipating this for a while.” Her previous work on Every Day Love were generally short-form looks at Chanani’s everyday life, so she decided to tell a long-form fictional story in Pashmina “precisely because I hadn’t tackled a longer story. I love illustration and short comics but I was itching to tell a longer more complex story.”
In many ways, Pashmina was a story inspired by Chanani’s own childhood. According to the author, both she and her character “love samosas and drawing comics!” However, unlike Priyanka, Chanani grew up closer to her family in India. Unlike Priyanka, who is raised solely by her mother, Chanani said “I grew up with both my parents and a large extended family. I also had contact with family in India throughout my life.”
Additionally, while Priyanka’s family and friends are incredibly encouraging of her artistic pursuits throughout Pashmina, Chanani said “I can only speak from my own experience but I wasn’t encouraged towards art. Most often I heard about engineering, accounting, law and medicine as viable career tracks. In Pashmina I chose to show a community we can strive towards rather than one steeped in old values and ideals. And yes I hope that Pashmina will inspire young artists to pursue different tracks. I also hope that parents will see the book as an example of how being an artist is also a viable career. “
When asked what she hopes readers, particularly those growing up as first generation children of immigrants like Priyanka, will get out of Pashmina more generally, Chanani said that she hopes they’ll discover “a curiosity for their own histories and narratives. Respect for their family and struggles. Most of all I hope that people can find a reflection of their own experiences within the pages.”
In celebration of the release of Pashmina, Chanani worked with animator Lyla Warren to prepare a special animated trailer promoting the title, which we are excited to exclusively debut.
Chanani will be at New York Comic Con this week to debut Pashmina.