In this feminist graphic novel, a young woman searches for the truths of her past with the help of a long-lost aunt; Shakti, the Divine Mother Goddess; and a mysterious shawl.
Indian-American teenager Priyanka “Pri” Das, a talented artist and a bit of a loner, 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 refuses to speak of India: “That subject is permanently closed.” Soon, Pri discovers a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase in her Los Angeles home. When she wraps it around her shoulders, she is transported to an imagined, romanticized India—one as colorful as a Bollywood movie, in contrast to the black-and-white images of her everyday life. There, a talking elephant and bird introduce Pri (and readers) to the country’s festivals, foods, and fashion, but Pri knows this isn’t the “real” India. To find “her” India and uncover her mother’s secrets, Pri will travel to the subcontinent, where she learns about women’s choices—especially her mother’s—and living without fear. While the book covers well-worn territory about bicultural and immigrant conflicts, it also dramatically explores the ways women are constrained by patriarchy. Pri is the daughter of a single mother, a family structure rarely represented in young people’s literature of the South Asian diaspora.
An original graphic novel, the first written and illustrated by an Indian-American creator, this is both a needed contribution and a first-rate adventure tale. (Graphic novel. 10-14)