Rummanah Aasi

Description: 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.

Review: Priyanka “Pri” Das is a talented artist who loves to make comics. She is a bit of a loner and outsider. She wants to know both why her deeply religious mother left India for California so abruptly years ago and her father’s whereabouts, but Pri's mother is very cryptic about her past and refuses to speak of India. When Pri discovers a mysterious pashmina tucked away in her mother's forgotten suitcase and wraps it around her shoulders, she is transported to an imagined, romanticized India. These panels burst with vibrant colors in contrast to the banal black and white images of her everyday life. In the magical India Pri has a talking elephant and peacock who serve as Pri's and the reader's tour guides and introduce us to the country's festivals, foods, and fashion, but Pri knows this isn't the realistic version of India, which is hinted by a ghost shaped woman who appears in the background. In order to find the answers to Pri's questions and see the real India, she will have to travel to India, where she learns about women’s choices—especially her mother’s—and living without fear.
  This is a well written debut graphic novel, but it left me wanting more. I appreciated how the portrayal of Indian culture was well balanced. The inclusion of Hindi words worked naturally in the text though it would have been a good idea on expanding the glossary on how to pronounce the words. Since I am familiar with Hindi already, I didn't not have a hard time understanding the words but for readers who are not familiar with the Hindi language might have some trouble. While the graphic novel touches upon classic themes of bicultural and immigrant conflicts, it also talks about women's roles and their constraints in the Indian culture. Although a lot can be inferred from the panels, I would really have liked if this topic was explored further and we got to see more ways on how the magical pashmina's influences a wide range of women in the graphic novel. I also wondered if Pri's mom was aware of the pashmina's magical abilities and if so, why did she hide it? A character like Pri is rarely featured in children and/or YA books because she is the daughter of a single mother, a family structure that is rarely represented and looked down upon in shame in the South Asian culture; another topic that could have been covered more thoroughly in the book. Though a bit lacking in some aspects, Pashmina is a welcoming addition to diverse graphic novels and I look forward to reading more from this creator.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
2 Responses
  1. Kindlemom Says:

    I love how you described her imaginary world compared to her real life. This sounds like a wonderful heartfelt story.


  2. I like the idea of this story and think it could appeal to students.


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