As I Enfold You in Petals begins with several pages of wordless panels and near wordless panels depicting people in a huge line waiting to enter, one family at a time, the home of Benny the Bank, a notorious bootlegger first met in the first volume. The people are waiting to impress Benny on his birthday with promises and gifts. The winner will receive a substantial amount of cash, but it is an almost impossible task.
Curtis joins the line. He has just returned to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, after fighting forest fires and six weeks in rehab for alcoholism. His gift is definitely a surprise for Benny: his lost watch, found when Curtis was fighting fires. Curtis does not want the cash; he wants title to his grandfather’s home which is now owned by Benny. Curtis is interested in helping others in Fort Smith in the struggle with alcoholism and wishes to connect with Louis, his grandfather. Louis’ legacy is as a healer who received his gifts from the Little People and Spirit Helpers.
Curtis’s invitation to the Little People is through a song which is witnessed by Benny and Crow, a mysterious female friend of Benny’s. Benny tells her “As I Enfold You in Petals,” a poetic phrase borrowed from letters he read from Curtis’s father to his wife. The reader also discovers Benny’s secret wishes and his illness in his conversations with his sons. All is dependent on Curtis regaining the trust and support of the Little People.
Written byRichard Van Camp (he/him/his) a proud member of the Tlicho Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, Donovan Yaciuk and Nickolej Villiger. The first volume, originally published in black and white, has been completely revised by the four creators to provide a fresh and colorful rendition of the story. The newly released volume (2022) includes a precise essay regarding the background of this story as well as an essay on the interactions between the Japanese and the Dene.
It is a delight to have such a positive depiction of Dene spirituality and the people in this superb story of hope, strength of spirit, and redemption. The story celebrates family connections, memories, and stories through the text and the stunningly illustrated and colored illustrations. The pacing created by the panels, along with the rich and diverse coloring scheme, enfold readers into this story of cultural awakening and knowledge, leaving them satiated and complete. The characters and setting are vivid and authentically brought to life while the revisiting of memories is clearly delineated by sepia tones providing an accessible and seamless reading experience. Materials in the back provide information and cultural context about traditional Inuit tattoos that appear in the graphic novel.
The Spirit of Denendeh: As I Enfold You in Petals Vol. 2 By Richard van Camp Art by Scott B. Henderson, Donovan Vaciuk, Nickolej Villiger, Highwater Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781774920411
Publisher Age Rating: 15+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Indian American, Dogrib Dene, Character Representation: Indian American, Dene, First Nations or Indigenous, Addiction
Indian-American Priyanka, also known as Pri, is a comics-loving teenager who has important questions. She wants to know why her mother left India and who her father is, but her mother remains tight-lipped. After Pri discovers a pashmina (a kind of shawl) in an old suitcase, she finds herself transported to a bright and magical India. Convinced that she needs to visit the real place, Pri travels to India to discover the origins of the pashmina and herself.
Nidhi Chanani weaves together a story full of magic and realistic situations to form a charming narrative of identity and growth. Pri is a compelling protagonist, whose struggles to fit in are relatable. Pri’s determination, demonstrated through her persistent questions and decision to use her own prize money for airplane tickets, helps her to reach her goals. Chanani also includes a greater conversation about injustice and the importance of choice for women. As Pri comes to understand her identity and her mother’s story, she finds her strength.
Chanani conveys a setting filled with Pri’s close family and friends, school drama, the goddess Shakti, and magic. Because the main character and her family are Indian-American, the story naturally includes elements of Indian culture. The characters also use some Hindi words, and although the words are not explicitly translated, there is usually enough context for non-native speakers to get the gist.
Chanani’s artwork captures movement and body language well, and her ability to draw strong scenes add to the emotional power of the work. She also includes little details, such as posters of Sailor Moon in Pri’s room, to give a sense of the characters’ identity. Many of the illustrations are in black and white, and so Chanani’s judicious use of color effectively symbolizes idealism and packs a big punch at key moments.
Pashmina is a rich, sweet graphic novel about understanding your identity and finding your purpose. There is no gore or sexual content, but, given some of the more emotionally mature topics, this comic is ideal for readers ten and older. Readers looking for a work with a great feminist message will gravitate toward this one. I, for one, hope to see more work from Nidhi Chanai.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani ISBN: 9781626720879 First Second, 2017 Publisher Age Rating: 10-14
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it’s a perfect film noir opening. Our hero, Arjun Kadam, is injured and facing an armed gunman. It looks like the end. The street lights highlight the rain pouring down on Kadam and throw the scene into stark relief. Let us flashback to how Kadam found himself in this position.
Arjun Kadam is an ex-cop in Mumbai. He is down on his luck and feeling sorry for himself. One evening, a young flower-seller talks with him and makes him feel hopeful, if only for a minute. So when she is killed minutes later in front of him in a hit-and-run, he is determined to track down her killer. Let us flashback to how Kadam found himself in this position.
Arjun Kadam is a rising star in the police force. He has a beautiful wife and they are expecting their first child. He is working on the anti-mob task force under Vishnu Damle, supervised by Sunil Sawat. But then, everything goes downhill. Damle is permanently injured in a raid gone wrong, and complications develop with his wife’s pregnancy. He goes from having everything before him, to nothing.
The story moves back and forth from the present to the past, as we learn why Kadam has become so hopeless and just how corrupt the police force can be. We see how his wife and unborn baby died, wrenching his life apart. We see his guilt at his supervisor’s wheelchair-bound state. These drive him to hunt down the answer to the hit-and-run accident that killed the flower seller, which leads him deeper into the corruption of the police force.
The novel is mostly drawn by Vivek Shinde, with the interludes and side plots drawn by other artists. The art is lush and dark painting in a city that seems to be always night and always raining. Saurav Mohapatra has written a wonderful compact and compelling story with all the twists and turns you would expect from a true noir crime mystery.
Mumbai Confidential: Good Cop, Bad Cop by Saurav Mohapatra Art by Vivek Shinde, et al ISBN: 978-193639365 Archaia Entertainment, 2013 Publisher Age Rating: Adult