You Bring the Distant Near

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2017

Member Reviews

You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins 100% deserves all the praise. IT IS SO GOOD. Also, it deserves all kinds of attention. I can’t say for sure if it has been getting attention on the bookish internets because I’ve really just been holed up disconnected, reading all the books and hanging with my kiddo instead of engaging. Anyways, You Bring The Distant Near is the second book I’ve read by Perkins (see: Bamboo People) but now I know FOR SURE I AM GOING TO READ HER OTHER BOOKS. And get all shouty because I get shouty about things that are good.

Perkins’ latest book follows basically six characters. It opens up with a swim meet when character Sonia is kind of young. Then it transitions to Sonia and her sister, Tara, moving to New York with their mother to meet up with their father who got a job in the United States. We get to see Sonia and Tara become kind of Americanized but also keep some of their roots as well. From there the story goes on to the next generation with cousins Anna and Chantel, again exploring identity. The book then ends with a focus on Ranee, the matriarch of this wonderful family.

Sonia and Tara have their part of You Bring The Distant Near set in the 1970s. That kind of made me (born in the late 80s) feel young. Sonia is incredibly smart and really into books. She also kinds herself getting into the equal rights movement and becoming a feminist. I am here for that. Her sister Tara isn’t as academically inclined, but she’s smart and valued too. Tara is a gifted actress and finds herself taking on different roles in real life to kind of help her adjust — from Twiggy to Marcia. I found myself really interested in reading about Sonia and Tara.

Anna and Chantel are cousins and obviously the children of Sonia and Tara. Anna ends up moving from India to New York City and staying with her grandmother. She goes to school with Chantel. It is a bit of a learning curve for her as she must adjust to the culture, the same as her mother and aunt did. However, she really does find her niche and you can’t help but root for her. As for Chantel, she struggles a little bit with her identity being multiracial. She ends up really being pretty cool though – a popular athlete.

You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins is a beautifully written book about multiple generations of women in a Bengali family. It is fascinating to see how time impacts this family. I loved seeing how even Ranee is a dynamic character. This book is engrossing. It’s well paced. And well, the characterization cannot be beat. Definitely would recommend to you if you’re into stories that span decades.
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The writing style, wording, and story are absolutely beautiful. The pacing feels natural, and the issues that the story confronts are well-handled, and no dialogue ever feels stilted or forced. "You Bring the Distant Near" is easily a favorite with its clever characters and lovely writing.
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Excerpt from Review: "... I was surprised when I finally realized that You Bring the Distant Near was actually a teen novel.  Sure, the story is told through the eyes of the girls as teenagers, but we do see some things through the eyes of Ranee Das as well (toward the end, anyway) and the subject matter is not just kid stuff, though teen novels rarely are these days.  I suppose what I am trying to say is that Mitali Perkins’ writing is so captivating and her characters are so real and likeable, that this book is enjoyable for people of any age, including myself (and I’m far…ahem…maybe not too far…from being a teenager)..."
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Did not finish -wasn't was I was expecting. Not bad, just not in my interests.
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I'm actually not posting a review of this book on my blog or goodreads, due to the fact that this book was a DNF for me. It was no fault of the book itself, it just turns out that this didn't really line up with my reading tastes. I will say I really enjoyed the writing style for what I did read, but I've just been sitting on this ARC for months and could never get into it. I'm really sorry about that.
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This wonderful book is based on Indian culture. It is a multi-generational book spanning the lives of 5 women in the one family. We follow them as they try to acclimate to American culture and find find their identities. I feel it is an important read to get a glimpse inside another culture.
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A truly inspiring story. Beautifully written. An amazing creation.
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Multiple reasons why I really liked this book:
- The premise: Spans countries and multiple generations of women with epic family drama throughout - what else do I need?
- The characters: Perfectly developed, realistic with a strong sense of individuality. Ranee was the epitome of a typical desi mom and Sonia, oh my god, writer, reader and literary fangirl - how could I resist all this relatability? Tara (Starry) though, was the most realistic, especially in her high school phase where she puts on different masks and pretends to be someone she's not to blend in, the struggle of becoming American 'properly'. I think every young adult whose family migrated to another country can relate and connect with this, every high-schooler in general can relate. 
- The theme of home is where the stories are. As an individual who had an identity crisis because of constantly going back and forth to living in two different cities, I wholeheartedly loved this!
- Constructed a perfect image of the family turmoil which occurs when there is an interracial marriage in desi families, and the problems that their children face - black enough, indian enough
- It was a treat to see that this discussed the rights of modest woman and secondary characters were given a strong voice too, loved the whole makeover of the changing room, couldn't imagine how I'd react if I had to be naked in front of a room full of girls in the name of 'women should be proud of their bodies'. I mean great, yes, I agree with that but that doesn't mean I'll ever be comfortable with someone invading such a personal space.
- The nosy aunty scenes with skin color issues being represented. The issues EVERY SINGLE DESI GIRL FACES!
- A lot of intriguing music, movie, tv shows, and book references from different cultures. 
- A limited representation of Islamophobia and the affects of 9/11

Reasons because of which this didn't get a 5 star rating:
- Conversations in the family felt natural but not ones with outsiders or friends e.g. Sonia and Sahara's conversations. 
- Sonia's character got a little infuriating in terms of not understanding her mother's grief and instead wanting to get her out of her self-constructed patriarchal prison. Not everything has to be connected to being a feminist and patriarchy; different people take and handle grief differently.
- This one problematic thing in what Shanti kept saying about rich people - this particular sentence in the book, "Why don't these kinds of people have the right set of values?" My immediate response was: who is to decide what these 'right' set of values are? Let everyone be. Not every rich person is somehow going to be the extremely generalised and negative image which media perpetuates. 
- The End: Overall the novel had substantial drama but the end was so anti-climatic, it made me go like okayy.
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I had very few problems with this novel. The first is that I wish it had been longer so that I could have had more time with each of the characters. The second is that I wish it hadn't ended. I really loved seeing each of the women evolve in their lives along with the times. While the skipping through the years did require filling in the blanks a few times, it was easy enough to follow what each character had been up to in the meantime. I really enjoyed this one.
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I love the family aspects in the story. Family relationships are one of my favorite things to read about, and I loved seeing the multi-generational aspect in You Bring the Distant Near. Seeing each generation bringing something to the story was a nice way to make sure every character was relevant, without overtaking anyone else. I also liked getting to see and Indian American family, and seeing their culture beautifully incorporated into the book..
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You Bring the Distant Near truly felt like a gift I was unwrapping Christmas morning. It’s not often that we get stories based on Indian culture yet here we have a multi-generational book spanning the lives of 5 women in the Das family. We first meet Ranee & Rajeev Das, the parents of Tara & Sonia Das as they move from Bangladesh to London & finally Queens, New York. Rajeev Das is a hard worker & provider for his family, his wife Ranee wants them to own a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood. The Das family has very humble beginnings in a apartment in Queens that is located in a predominantly black neighborhood. We see Ranee struggle with her own prejudices & how her fear leads her to restrict Tara & Sonia. We also get an inside look on her marriage & the disconnect that often leads to arguments in the Das home. Underneath it all however, is a whole lot of love. This book truly has it all! the immigrant experience, marital woes, intersectional issues, colorism, feminism, Islamophobia, complex characters and so much more. I couldn’t put this book down other than to shed some tears every now & again. Seeing three generations of women try to retain some of their culture while also trying to fit in to their new lives was rewarding for me as a reader. Having had some of my own family immigrate from Salvador to the United States, I knew assimilating would be difficult but never really thought about how difficult it must be to try & retain some of their own culture. I found myself rooting for these characters to win their battles & stand up for what they believe is right. This isn’t by any means a fast paced book, it is however a heart warming read that gives you a inside look to a culture & people not often seen in YA books.


The author kindly included a family tree at the very beginning of the book but I found I didn’t really need it since the characters were very well fleshed out. 5 women’s stories spanning over 3 generations, all so very different from each other but the one thing they have in common is their wish to hold onto some if not all of their roots. I LOVED all of these characters, they’re the type to stick with you way after you’ve read the last page.

Rajeev & Ranee Das- mother & father to Tara & Sonia are struggling to meet eye to eye when it comes to settling down on a place to live. Rajeev is sweet & the definition of a proud & doting father. He has a ton of love for his daughters & I found myself crying the most whenever he interacted with Tara & Sonia because this is the closest a character has come to resembling my own father & how he cared for my sister & I. Rajeev is incredibly supportive of his daughters & encourages them to follow their dreams. Our matriarch Ranee Das on the other hand is the law in her home & perhaps has the most character growth in this book. She has a ton of prejudices to sort through & we get to see her struggle with her marriage, daughters, grand daughters and her own internal struggle to both let go & hold on to some cultural beliefs. I loved seeing how realistic this marriage was portrayed & the underlying love that shines through.

Tara & Sonia Das- Since the majority of this book is told in alternating POV’s between these two sisters, I felt that I really got to know them. Tara aka Star is in love with acting, drama, entertaining, and fashion. She loves studying different icons on tv & imitating their style. This is something she sees as a useful tool whenever she has moved to a new country & started a new school. Tara is also the sister everyone considers the beauty who is sure to find a suitable husband. Sonia aka Sunny is a reader & writer, she loves retreating into her own world where she can journal & read non-fiction. The move to NYC places her on course to becoming a feminist & activist. I enjoyed seeing the contrast between Sunny, Star, and Ranee. Sunny is very vocal in squashing any prejudices coming from her mother which is why they clash the most. Sunny is also of darker complexion & we see the affects of colorism both in her home & with other Indian neighbors.

Chantal & Anna- the daughters of Sunny & Star, the latter part of YBTDN is told in alternating POV chapters with these cousins. We still get to see their parents but the focus shifts to their high school lives. Chantal is Sunny’s daughter & she is trying to find peace between her two grandmothers. Chantal is bi-racial & we get to see the very realistic familial battles that take place when two very different cultures come together through marriage. Anna is Star’s daughter & she for the most part has been raised in Mumbai. Her parents do travel with her to & from NYC to Mumbai but she has no interest in American life. We see her get uprooted & the difficulties she faces when trying to hold on to her roots.

Grandma Rose- doesn’t come into the picture til’ we meet Chantal later in the book but I seriously LOVED seeing her duke it out with Ranee for title of best grandma. Grandma Rose is black & is very involved in Chantal’s life. I loved seeing her pride & confidence in Chantal, she really is her #1 fan. Some of my favorite scenes were those between Rose & Ranee, these two had me smiling & shaking my head.


Rich in culture & family dynamics, You Bring the Distant Near is easily a top contender for my top 10 favorite books of this year. For any bookworms looking for #ownvoices reads, I highly recommend picking this book up. In just 320 pages we get wonderful character development & a ton of tough topics thrown in the mix making this one hell of a journey. I felt a range of emotions seeing this family try to set down new roots in a strange land while also learning to adapt when life throws you a curve-ball. I also found myself wanting more story once I finished reading & perhaps that’s due to how well it was structured. The alternating POV chapters between Sunny & Star and later their daughters Chantal & Anna really allow you to form attachments. This bookworm would love to see more of the Das family & their growing pains. I am so happy to have read YBTDN & wish only to see more from this author in the very near future *fingers crossed*

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing, Netgalley, and Mitali Perkins for the eGalley copy of You Bring the Distant Near in exchange for an honest review.
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I really loved this book. It takes place over 2 generations, first through the 70's then through early 2000's, with a bit of their mother/grandmother thrown in to break up the two generations. It's a lovely story about Indian immigrants who move from London to the US. They simply try to survive, but when their father dies, the women of the family break from tradition. Sonia marries an African American that her mother doesn't approve of while Tara marries the man that her family was trying to arrange a marriage for the two of them, but because she fell for him. Instead of letting male family members honor their father, they do, Sonia cutting off her hair while Tara returns her father's ashes to where he was born. We then skip to their daughters growing up, Chantel learning what it means to be Bangali and African American and Anna what it means to live in her cousin's shadow and learning that she can still be American and Bangali. But the biggest growth in this book comes from Ranee Das, the matriarch of the family. She goes from being a negative and racist character to one that accepts anyone that loves her girls to becoming American herself. It's a lovely transformation that leaves you proud of her and rooting that she gets a happy ending herself. 

The writing in this book is lovely. I probably read most of the book in one night because it became near impossible to put it down. The characters are interesting and realistic and completely their own persons. With so many people and so many generations, you might worry they would all start to blend together, but they don't. The only thing I wish was different is that we got a small window into Tara's life as an adult like we did Sonia. But Tara's story stops being about American, where this story focuses on the American side of it. 

This story is perfect for today. It talks about issues we're still facing in 2017 from racism to immigration to trying to find where you are in this world and who you are. There simply was no one better than the Das women to tell this story.
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This was a very interesting cultural look at India and that multigenerational family. What values do the past generation hold more importantly than the new one. The one that believes in feminism and marrying for love. And how does that generation raise the next. I loved it. Beautiful language and great information on the Indian culture
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This was a greatly written book told in good prose which delved into the heart of the meaning of race and ancestory.
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Where am I from? Can the answer be stories and words, some of theirs, some of mine?

Why is no one talking about this book?? 
If you've marked this book as to read you need to get on it asap because it's such a beautiful novel. 
You Bring the Distant Near follows the lives of five Indian women, three generations, from West Africa to London and to America and India. We get a glimpse into the lives of Indian women who have settled in America to live the American Dream. This book deals with cultural and race issues with five very strong and different women in the forefront. Although this book does include love interests they never take the limelight. 

"You read her diary! That's wrong, Ma!"
Ma closes the incinerator door and raises her palms in the air like she's praying. "I have to find out what's going on in her head, don't I? It's my duty to keep her safe." 
"You'll make her dangerous instead," Starry answers. 
The first characters we meet in You Bring the Distant Near are Ranee and her daughters Tara and Sonia. 
Ranee Das just wants the best for her daughters, she wants them to marry well but she also wants them to have careers so that they are never dependent on their husbands like she is. 
Tara is kind and gentle like her father and a natural actress. Everywhere they move to she plays a new part, becomes a new version of Tara. Girls follow her, boys chase after her. She wants to make a career out of her acting but she's not sure her parents will approve. 
Sonia is loud and opinionated much like her mother. She loves to read and write. She clashes with Ranee a lot, leaving Tara to try and mediate for them constantly but Sonia and Ranee hit their biggest fight when Sonia falls for an African American. 
Chantal is Sonia's mixed race daughter. Very much like her aunt, she becomes the peacekeeper between her Grandmother Das and Grandmother Johnson. 
Anna has all the fire of her aunt Sonia and Grandmother. But having grown up in India and then completing high school in America is a shock to her system. 

I should be glad it went badly, I suppose, but I sigh instead. Poor Didu!
Shanti looks at me.
"What?" I ask.
"It's kind of creepy to hear our grandmother's exact sigh coming out of you, Anu."
This story is a very much character driven story and with such strong female characters, exploring the dynamic of mother/daughter, sister, and cousin relationships, it doesn't need to try to be anything else. All the women are multi-dimensional, complex characters who live full lives and experience complex relationships with their female relatives. This book is about family, change, sexism, race, it tackles so much in such a short time but it's not in your face, it's a gentle story that lets it's characters shine. 

"If you don't say yes to change, Anu, life starts to leave you behind."
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Told in alternating voices over three generations, You Bring the Distant Near follows the immigration of the Das family from Ghana to London to NYC in the 1970s.  Tara and Sonia are excited to embrace the American way of life, whereas their mother Ranee has traditional Indian expectations of her daughters.  However, Tara's interest in acting and Sonia's social activism are encouraged by their father. Twenty years later Tara is a Bollywood star and Sonia is a New York reporter married to her African American high school love.  Their daughters Anna and Chantal, echo their mothers' ideals and ultimately bring their grandmother around to a new way of thinking.  Nominated for the 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, this heart-warming story is inspired by the author's own immigrant experience.
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This book is amazing. The book follows the lives of an Indian family, specifically the daughters of a Bengali couple. Starry and Sunni are in high school, and have just moved to the US from London, following their father who has landed a job in New York. The book follows the girls throughout the 1960s and 70s, then in 1996 picks up the story of their daughters.

You Bring the Distant Near gripped me from the beginning. I don’t know a lot about Indian culture and I feel like this was a great glimpse into beautiful, even if somewhat controversial, culture. The story is easy to follow because of how it is presented and even the passage of time moves seamlessly. So much happens throughout the book, from life events, to real world events that make the story seem even more real. It would be easy to get lost and confused but Perkins makes it seem easy. The writing style is enjoyable and helps the story move forward as well.

The characters, even the mother and father, come to life. They’re written so that they seem like a real family, even with their issues, and arguments. When Starry and Sunni are children, the family dynamic feels real, even if they have issues, love binds them together. 

The only thing I would have changed about this book is the ending. I wish we would have learned more about how things ended for every one instead of the book shifting to Didu’s perspective for the last chapter. Overall, I’d recommend this book to any one who enjoys contemporary fiction and learning about other cultures.
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In You Bring the Distant Near, Mitali Perkins created a beautiful story of family, love and identity. Sonia, a writer and reader, mentions Little Women on more than one occasion. I can’t help but make comparisons. These women have so much love for each other and they show that as they work through their individual challenges.

The relationships of Sonia, Tara and their mother Ranee are the primary focus of more than half of the book. These young women and their mother share many things like genes, culture, and having adapted to multiple countries over time. This is the magic of families. We often share so much, but our personalities and individual experiences shape us and our identities become distinct from each other. As the young women are trying to live their dreams, they are also separating from their mother and the past she clings to. By offering this story from so many perspectives, readers are able to see the diversity present within one extended family. Ranee has an obvious bias toward the Black people in their neighborhood yet she rebels against some of the confining requirements from her own culture. She pushes her husband and provides for her family. Sonia uses her voice and pen to fight for women’s rights and Tara focuses on being a star and keeping peace between her sister and mother. All hold onto and honor aspects of their culture that match their own beliefs. They are at work blending the many parts of themselves on a palette and making their unique mark on the world.

Every part of this book made me want to crawl into the story with this family. Even when certain characters weren’t speaking to each other, I could still see the love there and the belief in one another. The original group of women set the stage and then we get to see the children. The cousins add another layer to the story. I loved seeing how tightly each young woman clung to what and who they valued. These are teens who have doubts and fears, but move forward through them. Like with Little Women, I think readers will likely see bits and pieces of themselves within these characters and will want to cheer them on every step of the way. It sounds seriously sappy, but this book made my heart happy.

Recommendation: Get it now especially if you enjoy realistic fiction involving families. I did not want this book to end.
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