[REVIEW] Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani

A black tablet displays the cover of Pashmina, which depicts an Indian-American teenage girl wrapped in a red and gold pashmina shawl that floats above her and forms a background for the title of the book. The tablet rests on a blue and gold pashmina, with a tiny black statue of Ganesh peeking over the right side of it.

(Buy it on Bookshop.)

Something that I’m always learning is that discussions of trauma don’t always have to be epic. There is a time to dive deep into injustice, of course. But sometimes, it’s right to acknowledge something happened, commit to examining its effect on your life and community, and fold that understanding into the regular business of living so that it ends. Some things we mourn. Others we discover. Some we carry with us to remind us who we are now, and who people have stopped us from trying to be.

The latter seems to be exactly what this middle grade graphic novel is aiming for. There’s a lot going on in this sweetly illustrated story of Indian-American teenager Priyanka, who finds her immigrant single mother’s old pashmina in a closet and begins to crave connection to a country that she’s never seen. Domestic abuse, gender inequality, poverty, class exploitation, cultural alienation, third-culture discomfort and many other things are important to this story. Yet somehow, the tone of the book stays remarkably light, helped along by a few magical elements and Priyanka’s own innocence.

Sometimes all these different elements seem messy and clash, but they do so in a way that seems authentic to the ways that life is often complex and over-full. The art is cute and clever, and I’d easily recommend this to a preteen working through jealousy, culture clashes or any of the challenges of working through a complicated life influenced by things that happened long before they were born.

4 stars, a plane ticket, and a plate of mithai to Pashmina.

(Beautiful people! It’s hot. I’m tired. Click. Affiliates. Commission. Bookshop. Legal reasons. Ugh. Peace!)

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