This week I was delighted to discover Nidhi Chanani's debut graphic novel Pashmina. The book is the story of Priyanka Das, a girl who feels caught between two worlds. Growing up in America, Pri is curious about her heritage and why her mother abruptly left India many years ago, never to return. The discovery of an enchanted Pashmina leads her on a voyage of self-discovery.
This book is a welcome addition to my classroom library for a number of reason. First of all, it gives a window into Indian culture, with attention given to religion, festivals, history, and food. I always appreciate increasing cultural representation in my classroom library, particularly since I don't have many books featuring protagonists who are Hindu.
Secondly, I really appreciate the twin themes of identity and empowerment. In the book, Pri wishes to discover her roots in India, but she comes to realize that not everything matches the ideal image in her head. In fact, a number of female characters are caught between traditions that leave them subserviant and the wish for greater independence. The varying choices they make when faced with inequality is noteworthy. While I would appreciate a bit more development on some of these themes, I do think they could provoke good discussion in a middle school class. I'm looking forward to recommending it to my students.