Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial prejudice
Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 7-11. How do you make a sweeping family saga feel present and relevant for a teen audience? Jump across time and space and highlight just those pivotal adolescent moments that are as unifying as they are unique: starting a new school, claiming one’s faith, embracing one’s identity, or falling in love. Perkins has created a resonant and memorable tale that is both episodic and wholly unified. Sonia and Tara Das immigrate to New York City with their parents in the 1970s. They are swept into the culture of the vibrant city and quickly push back at their mother Ranee’s traditional expectations of good Indian girls, while their more permissive father encourages Tara’s acting, Sonia’s activism, and independence for both. Twenty year later, their decisions echo in the lives of their own daughters. Sonia’s daughter, Chantal, challenges her family to understand her biracial identity, while Tara’s daughter, Anna, takes a stand to defend her rights in a creative and stylish way. It is Anna and Chantal who ultimately bring Ranee’s character to life as the granddaughters, foils for each other, bear witness to Ranee’s personal awakening after the 9/11 attacks. 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.
Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
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. (Historical fiction/fiction. 12-18)
About the Author
Mitali Perkins has written several novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for the National Book Award) Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL best 100 Book for children in the past 100 years), Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel), and Tiger Boy, which won the South Asia Book Award for Younger Readers.
She currently writes and resides in San Francisco. Her website is www.mitaliperkins.com
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