Nidhi Chanani

Nidhi Chanani talks to ComicsVerse about PASHMINA, comics, and more at New York City Comic Con 2017!

George O’Connor talks THE OLYMPIANS at New York Comic Con 2017

ComicsVerse: Welcome to New York Comic Con 2017. My name is Rachel Davis. With me is Nidhi Chanani. Thank you. And you are watching ComicsVerse. How’s your Con going so far?

Nidhi Chanani: It’s going great. I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of panels and signings and my book just came out. It’s really exciting to meet people who have read it or are buying it or went to a panel and they come and buy it. It’s all really great.

ComicsVerse: Congratulations on your book birthday. This is your first graphic novel ever published, but you’re by no means new to comics. You’ve been doing EVERYDAY LOVE on your website, everydayloveart.com, for years now and you’ve also published comics on The Nib and other websites. What was the process like, of creating your first graphic novel?

Nidhi Chanani: Well, it was really long. It took me four years. I mean, I did other things in between that. I made a picture book during the time, I had a baby. But yeah, I was doing illustration and kind of short autobio comics for a good period of time. And then, you know, I love illustration and I love that single image telling one powerful story, but I wanted something longer. So that’s when I started working on PASHMINA.

ComicsVerse: And let’s get into PASHMINA. PASHMINA is a phenomenal book, and one of the things that I absolutely love about it is that it’s not a typical bildungsroman. You have Priyanka, or Pri, who, rather than being a first generation American who’s trying to get away from her parent’s culture, she’s not trying to Americanize. She wants to embrace her Indian identity, even more so than her mother would like her to. Did you decide on this? Like, you purposely wanted Priyanka to embrace her culture, or was this just part of the character? How did her character come about?

Nidhi Chanani: I definitely wanted it to be an exploration of her own culture, and I didn’t want it to be a story of assimilation. That story isn’t one that I want to tell. Not because it’s not a universal story, but I also wanted to represent the people who want to learn more about themselves and do a deep dive into their cultural history. And when I was crafting her character, she didn’t know so much about herself. There were so many unanswered questions. In so many ways that journey had to happen. It had to happen for her to understand herself. When you’re introduced to her in the beginning, and where she ends up, you’re with her through that journey.

ComicsVerse: Absolutely. And this is also a very female-centric story. I feel like the most prominent relationship in PASHMINA is between Pri and her mother, and yet the pashmina scarf connects Pri to all these other women; her aunt and all these other women in India. It’s a very female-centric story, very beautiful. And there’s also a bit of a political edge to it about giving women choices and opportunities. What is your feeling on politics in comics? Is comics a great medium to discuss identity?

Nidhi Chanani: Yeah, I think comics is a great medium to discuss anything, really. I think when you combine words and pictures, there’s so much impact there. And it also kind of removes some of the pressure for it just being words so you have the visual do some of the heavy lifting. You have the words to do the other lifting. But combined together, somebody who might be a little reluctant to discuss feminism or whatever political stance you want to have, comics makes it a little softer, a little more welcoming.

ComicsVerse: How has your identity influenced your work in comics, and how have comics influenced your identity?

Nidhi Chanani: Wow, that’s an intense question. Man, maybe I should have looked at those questions beforehand. Well, PASHMINA is so much of my experience, right, it isn’t me. Priyanka isn’t me, but the base of the character, the base of the mom character is my mom. The base of Priyanka is me, but then doing my work around the characters, I really made it a part of my work to develop beyond me; to use myself, my mom as a foundation, but to really get into the character. And so much of my identity is tied up into Priyanka and her mom, but it’s also my work as a writer. So I want to write past what I know and really get to know my characters, and build them up beyond that foundation. It is very tied to my identity, but it’s also separate.

So it’s a little bit of both. And then how comics has influenced my identity. I’m a cartoonist now! I’m a published author! How could it not affect my identity? I love it. It’s an amazing community to be a part of. I grew up loving books, and to have a book with my name on it just feels like magic.

ComicsVerse: I love that, thank you for that. Has your definition of “everyday love” changed since you created your website and worked on your series everydayloveart.com?

Nidhi Chanani: No. That hasn’t changed at all. My mission from the very beginning was to share those everyday moments of love. I feel like I say this every time, but especially now, there’s so much ugliness in the world. And it’s hard to take that moment and say, you know what? This is beautiful. Us meeting, or exchanging something with somebody, and having that real moment, there are little moments of beauty in our lives every day. But there’s so much other crap that causes us to forget that, that it’s nice to have art, it’s nice to have books, comics, whatever it is, to remind you that there’s still really powerful, beautiful, heartwarming experiences. And so that hasn’t changed at all. And that’s what I want all of my work to kind of funnel through that lens.

ComicsVerse: And speaking of your future works, can we be looking forward to any future books from you? Oh my god, it’s already a yes. And you’re working on Inktober as well, yeah?

Nidhi Chanani: Yeah, Inktober will be kind of hit or miss because I’m going to be on tour for the month, but I already sold my second book to First Second, and I’m thumbnailing right now, so that’s exciting. And that’ll be out in 2020, I believe. So it’ll be a little bit of time, but there might be a picture book coming out in-between then and now that I can’t really talk about yet because it hasn’t been inked, but I just did. I feel pretty good about it.

ComicsVerse: I cannot wait to get my hands on this. Thank you so much for your time Nidhi.

Nidhi Chanani: Yeah, thank you.

ComicsVerse: For more interviews, as well as reviews, analyses and more, make sure to check out ComicsVerse.com. My name is Rachel Davis, and we’ll see you next time.

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