PASHMINA creator Nidhi Chanani on Graphic Novels
The following is a guest post from graphic novelist Nidhi Chanani, creator of Pashmina.
As a young reader, I wasn’t exposed to comics beyond the funnies, which is because my immigrant parents only knew Garfield and newspaper comics. I blame my parents for my limited comics knowledge when I was young! But in high school, my boyfriend lent me Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve and Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World. He always impressed me with his untraditional influences. I tried to impress him in return and began borrowing graphic novels from the library. I stumbled upon Goodbye Chunky Rice around the time he dumped me. Then, I had Craig Thompson’s beautiful pages to fill the void. I read that book over and over, in between bouts of bad poetry and blasting Tori Amos.
At the University of California at Santa Cruz, I studied literature and stayed away from boys and comics. I took a course on Holocaust literature, and although it wasn’t on the reading list (zero comics were included in my course readings), it led me to Maus by Art Spiegelman. I studied the pages and absorbed the overwhelming hardships of survivors more acutely than when I read prose books.
At UCSC and after, I kept writing and drawing. After graduation, I tried working at non-profits and none fit. I was introduced to a few professional artists. I thought Whoa! Art can be a job! So I took a deep breath and signed up for additional student loans for art school. I found American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. More than any other graphic novel prior, American Born Chinese made me believe I could make my own comic book. Good comics do that—make you believe in yourself. Gene did not shy away from discussing difficult topics of internalized racism, being a child of immigrants, and the universal awkwardness of being a teen. I saw again how a difficult topic could be tempered through comics to allow for honest discussion.
In art school I began thumbnailing my first book. Two hundred pages of terrible comics! But I showed promise and commitment! I pitched my terrible book to a few agents who ignored its terribleness and saw the promise of hard work (I think). I ended up signing with Judy Hansen, who is also Gene’s agent, which bolstered my confidence. I didn’t know then that it would take another five years to finish Pashmina. Maybe if I had known I would’ve quit sooner. I learned while writing and re-writing Pashmina for years that comics are a labor of love by people who are bananas. So thanks, comics, for allowing me to join this band of bananas!
Here’s a sneak peek at the first pages of Pashmina:
Now, I voraciously read graphic novels. They contain all my favorite things! Stories! Art! Cute author bios!
Recent comics I loved:
Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez
Each expression and page is a visual treat. Sandy, the main character, is an artist who has to deal with her insecurities, ego, and pressure head on. Creepy, cute, and a must-have.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
A completely relatable new-girl-at-school story. The art is subtle and sweet. I also really appreciate the diversity of the characters that doesn’t deviate from the central story, but is just a part of the world. As it should be!
Mis(h)adra by Iasmin Omar Ata (out this Fall)
An honest and visually stunning graphic novel about epilepsy and the struggle to accept help when you need it. This is comics at its best—doing what only comics can, conveying the visuals of an otherwise difficult-to-describe experience.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
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.