Summary and book reviews of You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near

by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins X
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
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  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag

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Book Summary

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.

Race at the British Club
1965

The swimmers have finished their races and are basking in the sun. It's almost time for the beginners' event. Tara kneels at the shallow edge, giving her little sister last-minute instructions. Floating inside her ring, Sonia pretends to listen.

Their mother stands alone by the deep end, sari-clad under the red monsoon umbrella she carries as portable shade from the West African sun. Kwasi, a Ghanaian waiter, offers her a bottle of icy cola. She refuses it. But the English mothers accept the cold drinks. Wearing starched blouses, armpits stained with sweat, they cluster in tight groups of two or three along the length of the pool. Their words melt into the sound of water lapping against children—the steamy Accra air softening even the crisp cadences of their accents. They speak briefly to Kwasi. But never to the Indian woman.

Sonia and Tara can swim at the British High Commission club only because their father works for a British company. The ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the significance of Rabindranath Tagore's quote that appears before the novel begins?
  2. How do attitudes toward gender differ between the various characters and between the generations?
  3. What does Tara mean when she says: "She tells me I use the screen the way she uses reading and writing, but she's wrong. For her, that's escape. For me, it's research" (page 36)?
  4. Why does Tara feel the need to perform and change her identity (page 37)?
  5. What does Tara mean when she says that "power oozes from every American pore of her skin" when talking about Marcia Brady (page 41)?
  6. What is the cultural significance of the conversation had about Tara getting new shoes on pages 45-46?
  7. What do Ranee's attitudes toward ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This is a love story – not only of romantic love, but of the love between families, the love between mothers and daughters, and how that love frames our lives. And it rings true, because it is an imperfect love, one that grows and changes as each woman grows and changes. But what Perkins accomplishes best is the creation of an individual as opposed to an archetype, which is, unfortunately, all too rare in modern publishing. Each woman's voice is unique and her own. This is the story of Tara, Sonia, Ranee, Chantal, and Anna, and where they all come together. It could have easily become trite and relied on lazy stereotypes of the "Indian experience" in the USA, or of the tropes of what the expectations are on certain kinds of immigrant children. But that never happens. If we leave this book wanting anything, it is simply more time with these women, a greater opportunity to see them, so we can learn to see ourselves better.   (Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Full Review Members Only (673 words).

Media Reviews

Teen Vogue

This ambitious multigenerational story of finding identity and acceptance is inspired by the author's own experience as the youngest of three sisters who arrived in the United States in the 1970s. The exquisite narrative journeys across time and geography - from Ghana to London to Harlem - and crosses borders of love, faith, and culture.

Bustle

Perkins' new YA novel isn't just an exploration of family, but a tracing of its transformation as it crosses oceans and borderlines. You Bring the Distant Near captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart.

Kirkus Reviews

Although the book loses steam and heart toward the end, the earlier chapters, moving and rich in character and setting, make up for it.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

Booklist

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.

School Library Journal

Starred Review. This stunning book about immigration and cultural assimilation is a must-purchase for teen and new adult collections. Grades 9 and up.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Intricacies of Interwoven Cultural Identities

BollywoodYou Bring the Distant Near is successful, in large part, because of the way Mitali Perkins reveals the many, many intricacies of cultural identities, quietly challenging a western sense of the immigrant as stereotypical "other." She makes many references to Bengali culture, sometimes called Bangla culture, which plays a large part in how all three generations of women in the novel interact with each other and their larger world. At the same time, she reveals how complicated it is when cultural, national, and religious identities intersect; even before adding the culture shock that comes with immigration to a new country with completely different social rules. Much of the book revolves around which parts of that whole expression of culture ...

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