Nidhi Chanani’s debut graphic novel Pashmina has been a hit among critics and comics fans alike. The comic follows the story of Indian American teenager Priyanka Das who is filled with questions about her origin. Who is her father? What is India really like? Pri’s mother isn’t exactly open to discussing her childhood, though. When Pri discovers a magical pashmina that transports her to India in her dreams, she becomes determined to visit in real life and uncover the secrets of her family’s past once and for all.
Now we’re thrilled to announce exclusively that Nidhi Chanani’s second graphic novel is called Jukebox and will release from First Second in 2020. This book continues Chanani’s theme of a magical object facilitating a coming-of-age story. “I believe [the fantasy element] stems from my love of fiction and storytelling,” she explains. “There's an undeniable allure to creating a story that isn't bound by reality but rooted within it.”
In Jukebox, two Muslim American cousins, Shaheen and Tannaz, live in San Francisco. They find a magical jukebox that comes to their aid when Giovanni, Shaheen’s father, goes missing. They must work together to discover where Giovanni went and how the past plays into his disappearance.
Chanani turned to her husband for the spark behind her second graphic novel, Jukebox. “He's an audiophile and talking about music has always been a large part of our relationship,” she says. “The inspiration for Jukebox came from many conversations we had about vinyl records.”
We’ve also got some exclusive art from Jukebox to share with you today, courtesy of Nidhi and First Second.
Nidhi Chanani is a successful South Asian graphic novelist. She’s conscious of that status, and wants to incorporate it as much as possible into her work. “From the very beginning of my career I wanted to create artwork that featured folks not often seen — brown girls, mixed race couples, queer folks. Representation matters!”
For Jukebox, though, Chanani is writing a different kind of experience. “I was born in Kolkata, India,” she explains. "I came to the US when I was a baby and grew up with a large Indian family in California.” The Indian and Hindu narrative she writes in Pashmina is one that’s familiar. In Jukebox, though, Chanani tackles the Muslim American experience.
“For Jukebox I wanted to challenge myself to step outside of my own experience,” Chanani explains. “From the beginning, I knew that Jukebox was an adventure story and unlike Pashmina, the main characters' Muslim identity isn't central to the plot. Yes, Tannaz and Shaneen are Muslim. They're also fans of Percy Jackson, addicted to sweet treats, and on the verge of discovering a jukebox that takes them back in time. That being said I do not take casting my characters lightly. My hope is that Jukebox will challenge readers perceptions in a positive way.”
Chanani has had a longtime love of reading — she studied literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she met her husband — but it wasn’t until her late twenties that she enrolled in art school. “[I] committed to completing a full illustration every day for 3 years. Those drawings were the basis for my business, Everyday Love Art.” But after those three years was up, Chanani felt the itch to write a longer story. Thus, Pashmina was born.
“As much as Pashmina pushed me to my drawing and writing limits, I loved it! Two weeks after I submitted the final art I started working on the pitch for Jukebox. The process of developing characters, story, working through it visually is where my art and literature backgrounds meet,” Chanani explains. “Making comics feels like home and I hope to keep making them for a long time.”