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Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Nidhi Chanani

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2017 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Summer 2017 Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a first book. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In the graphic novel Pashmina, a magical pashmina transports Indian American teen Priyanka into dazzling visions of India, prompting her to investigate the taboo subjects of her single mother’s youth and left-behind family in Kolkata — and push for a visit. The reality is both more complex and more fulfilling than her fantasies.

Photo: Angela Grammatas.

1. How much (or little) do you and Priyanka have in common?

We both love samosas and drawing comics! But unlike Priyanka, I grew up with both my parents and a large extended family. I also had contact with family in India throughout my life.

2. How did you decide to shift between black and white and (such vivid!) full color?

The pashmina lifts Priyanka out of her life. I wanted to make sure that the impact of that was not lost on the reader. Shifting between grayscale for real-life scenes and color for fantastical ones allowed me bring the reader along on Priyanka’s journey.

3. Your author’s note mentions that you incorporated many friends’ names into the art. What’s the sneakiest hiding place?

Check the shop marquees!

4. Much of your work has a strong message of social justice. What place does art have in your activism?

I cannot separate my work from what I believe in. When I make choices about what I want to write, I do my best to address a need or gap. There are many communities that are underrepresented within books and art. It creates a cycle of prejudice and isolation. Art and books that showcase underrepresented identities can shift our perceptions of difference, of ourselves, and inspire people to make more inclusive art.

5. What do you want our readers to know about girls’ education in India?

Honestly, I am not a person who knows enough to speak to that. I do know that education is a privilege. Growing up, a common statement made by adults in our community was, “They can never take your education away.” I hope that more girls and women around the world gain access to education.

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