You Bring The Distant Near
By Mitali Perkins
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Age Range: 12+

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National Book Award Finalist with five starred reviews!

 

Description
This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture—for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

 

Reviews & Accolades
“Perkins (Bamboo People) delivers an unforgettable novel that spans decades and continents as it moves among three generations of Indian women, some new immigrants to the U.S., all struggling to bridge cultures. She begins in 1965 with sisters Sonia and Tara Das as they move from Ghana to London and then New York City, eager for new opportunities but very aware of the cultural expectations of their Bengali parents. The stories of Sonia’s romantic and political rebellion (she’s a devoted liberal and later marries a black man, sparking a rift with her mother) and Tara’s acting aspirations segue into those of Chantal and Anna, their daughters, as the novel jumps ahead to 1998. It’s a profound and moving story of personal growth—perhaps most dramatically in the case of Sonia and Tara’s mother, Ranee, whose dourness and preoccupation with tradition give way to a broader embrace of American culture as she takes to the role of grandmother. Perkins’s vibrantly written exploration of a family in transition is saturated with romance, humor, and meaningful reflections on patriotism, blended cultures, and carving one’s own path.”
Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)

“Full of sisterhood, diversity, and complex, strong women, this book will speak to readers as they will undoubtedly find a kindred spirit in at least one of the Das women.”
Booklist (Starred Review)

“In an intricately woven examination of identity and culture and the ways these forces interact, Perkins follows the women the Das family: sisters Tara and Sonia; their mother, Ranee; and their daughters, Anna and Chantal. Tara and Sonia move with their parents to the United States from London as teenagers in the early 1970s; the novel follows them as they discover for themselves what it means to be a woman, to be Bengali, and to be American in the face of personal desires and cultural expectations that are often in conflict. Decades later, their own teenage daughters face these same questions. More episodic than continuous narrative, the book offers glimpses into the lives of the Das women as they pursue passions, face tragedy, and fall in love. The story is told in alternating voices, first Sonia and Tara, then, later, Chantal and Anna. Each voice is unique and well-developed. While the reader never hears from Ranee in her own voice, there are two vignettes in which she is the central actor. The characters are full of genuine warmth and affection for one another, even when they struggle to show it. Identity, both individual and communal, is the overarching theme of the book and is something to which all teens can relate. Chantal’s struggle to define herself as both Bengali-American and African-American is particularly resonant. This is a recommended addition to all collections serving teens.
—VOYA

“Related in the alternating voices of two sisters and their respective daughters, this work captures the unique and, at times, fraught experience of navigating multiple cultures. Perkins examines the delicate balance between meeting family expectations and attaining personal happiness, a common motif in immigrant narratives. The story opens in 1970s New York, where the Das family has immigrated from England in hopes of planting roots and finding acceptance. Desperate for the adolescent freedoms they lacked in London, the teens chafe against their mother Ranee’s traditional Indian values. Older sister Tara (Starry) longs to be an actress, and budding feminist Sonia (Sunny) craves autonomy. The relationship between Sunny and Ranee is at the crux of the novel, representing the collision and ultimate blending of cultures. In the United States, Ranee struggles in vain to hold on to her “Indianness,” not only for herself, but also for her children. While Starry follows through on her entertainment dreams in Bollywood, it’s a slightly rougher path for Sunny. Perkins does not shy away from the complexities of race and culture with her realistic depiction of painful estrangement between mother and daughter when Sunny marries Lou, a black man. It is only through her connection to her granddaughters, Chantal and Anna that Ranee finds redemption and transformation. This novel underscores the importance creating a home no matter where you are in the world. VERDICT This stunning book about immigration and cultural assimilation is a must-purchase for teen and new adult collections.
School Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Perkins’ latest, inspired by the author’s own experience as the youngest of three sisters who arrived in the United States in the 1970s, is told in alternating voices across three generations. This saga tells the intertwined stories of Ranee Das, the matriarch, who uproots her family from Ghana (and then the United Kingdom) to find fortune in the United States; Sonia and Tara, her daughters, who struggle with identity and acceptance; and Anna and Chantal, Ranee’s granddaughters, who fight injustices at home and in their communities. As in the author’s other books, this novel features inspiring South Asian girl and women protagonists grappling with love, faith, and culture, as well as the intersections among their personal, communal, and national histories. The chapters from Ranee’s point of view, highlighting her redemptive transformation from racist mother-in-law to doting grandmother to a half-black grandchild, and those told in Sonia’s and Tara’s voices, including their turns from awkward and aspiring immigrant teenagers to New York Times reporter and Bollywood star respectively, are lushly drawn and emotionally resonant. The final third of the book, however, from the points of view of Anna and Chantal, is less so; its plotlines—Anna’s quest to redecorate her elite private school’s locker rooms and Chantal’s wrecking of her rich, white boyfriend’s Porsche—seem contrived and hastily written. While “issues” permeate the book (war, migration, racism, colorism, body positivity, environmentalism), they are more deftly woven into the narrative in the earlier, historical chapters than the later, contemporary ones. Although the book loses steam and heart toward the end, the earlier chapters, moving and rich in character and setting, make up for it.”
Kirkus Reviews

 

Groups Represented
Indian-American
Bengali-American
African-American

 

Themes
#OwnVoices
Bi-racial Identity
Cultural Differences
Cultural Identity
Family Relationships
Grandparents & Intergenerational
Historical
Identity
Immigration
Migrant Life
Multicultural Friendship

 

Setting
Ghana
England (London)
United States (New York City)

 

Engagement Projects & Resources
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