You Bring the Distant Near

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2017

Member Reviews

Excellent novel.  I love the relationships between the characters and the evolution of tolerance.
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I don’t know that I’m going to be able to find adequate words to describe my feelings for this book. This intergenerational heart-wrenching gem of a book, with its slow burn that creeps into your veins and takes hold of you; there really aren’t words that do it justice. Mitali Perkins has crafted something precious here. A deceivingly simple story about three generations of women – just 5 girls growing up, changing, learning, making mistakes, and, of course, falling in love. You may be tempted to think that this book will be a quick read, but let me tell you: You Bring the Distant Near is not a “quick” book. The story is soft and slow, and it’ll stay with you long after you finish it. 

I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that reminds me so much of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, and if you know me, then you know that there is no higher compliment I can give a book than to compare it to what is one of my all-time favorite stories. You Bring the Distant Near is not a replica of Ava Lavender, not by a long shot (in fact, besides being an intergenerational story, they have almost nothing in common), but it has the same power that Ava Lavender has. It’s the power to completely transform your way of thinking. It’ll sink into your heart, into your mind, into your very bones. 

Tara and Sonia are sisters growing up around the world – from Ghana to London and finally to New York, where they must learn how to forge their own path amidst the pressures of their parents’ cultural expectations. Then, when tragedy strikes, they must choose once and for all who they’re going to be. Will they choose to follow their mother’s wishes that they become successful Bengali girls or will they step outside of their comfort zones and pursue their passions in theater and civil rights activism? Then, we follow Shanti and Anna, cousins who couldn’t be from two more polar backgrounds. Shanti is striving to connect her black and Bengali heritages (and keep her grandmothers from killing each other) while Anna is staunchly protecting her Indian culture and refusing to assimilate into America. But when the grandmother they share, Ranee, decides to become an American citizen, they both must come to terms with what it means to be American, and face their heritage – all of it – head on.  

The prose is beautiful, and the story even more so. The Bengali-American Das women are sure to win you over with their charm, their grit, their tenacity, and their strength to more forward through everything life has to offer. I think, in the end, that’s what I love most about You Bring the Distant Near – it’s a book that truly captures life: the good and the bad, the happiness and the sorrow – it explores the very marrow we all are made of. Humans are capable of such incredible things, but the true beauty of living is that the small things are what end up making a life. From choosing to marry someone despite your family’s cultural objections to deciding when to stop wearing traditional mourning clothes after the death of a loved one, this book celebrates the small stuff. It revels in the details. In the many minute facets that truly make our lives. It’s a beautiful thing, and you don’t want to miss it. If you read one contemporary this year, make sure it’s this one.    

Rating: 5+/5 stars
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You Bring the Distant Near is a well executed story of heritage, expectations, points of view, and how to live in a world where these things clash.

Each generation had something that was important to their story. While these themes overlapped, they were stronger with the woman/women who are the focal point in the time period. It was interesting to see as Ranee's children, who have lived in many countries, adapted to America in contrast to their mother at first. There were prejudices to be dealt with and none were resolved quite so easily as perhaps Tara and Anna would have liked.

Even as the years passed and progress came into their lives, there were still difficulties hanging over from the past, such as Ranee's views of black people. Anna's Indian heritage, so vital to her personal identity (not least of which is because she was raised in Mumbai), is challenged when she feels her family is becoming too Americanized. It was difficult to watch these women struggle with their views, some changing over time and some needing coaching. Shanti's own identity is brought into sharp focus during a clash between her grandmothers: Ranee, a Bengali widow, and Rose, an African-American drama teacher whose views about their families don't mesh well for several years. Shanti's outburst and her declaration that she's "both" was powerful, not only to herself but to those around her.

The synopsis was somewhat misleading in details regarding the story, or at least how important they are to the individual women. Anna certainly fights to preserve her Bengali identity and that of her grandmother, but the reference to Bengal tigers is mentioned once and I don't believe ever again. Ranee does try to preserve her children's Indian heritage, but again, not nearly so much as the synopsis would lead you to believe.

I loved reading the stories of these women, over the course of several decades. I felt at the end, though, that it bordered on too short? Each section felt good but like it could have been so much more involved. 

The writing style makes me certain that I will be looking for more works by this author, as I was wrapped up in the story so well that I didn't want it to end.
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You Bring the Distant Near is a heart-warming family saga following the women of one family as they navigate the uncertain waters of identity, assimilation, and family. It has a wonderful cast of diverse women who are brave and tender. By taking the time, Perkins shows us the power of open-mindedness, love, and the ability to change our minds. 

So I was absolutely blow away by the amount of nuanced ethnic representation here. While the majority of the family is Bengali, there’s much more - half African American, and varying different experiences of religion, culture, and opinions. Each of the characters, especially the women, were intricate. Not only that, but ethnicity, stereotypes, and prejudice play a huge role in the book. Not only are our main characters encountering challenges fitting in, but also against their families (and within their families). 

And there were, of course, tons of little things I loved, like the mentions of other books, or the little details in the settings. One of the things I absolutely loved was Sonia’s love of writing and books. This basically sold me the novel from the beginning as I fell in love with her and was able to see her family change. There were also amazing quotes throughout the book that make reading not only educating, but also entertaining.
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I truly enjoyed this book! The characters were strong and clear, each with his or her own motivations and personalities. The storyline was engaging the whole way through - I wish there hadn't been so much time that passed in-between sections, though, that we got more of the transition stories between the generations. This book could have been 500 pages and I would have devoured it all.
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I'd heard lots of good things about this novel, which bumped it to to the top of my to-read lists of ARCs. I read most of it while on vacation and it seemed like a good fit - it touches upon hefty topics, but it's relatively easy reading. I liked the construction of the book, though I was a bit surprised by the first Ranee chapter - seemed to come out of nowhere for me. Similarly, I was disappointed that Starry was mostly missing from the last section of the book - Sunny makes several appearances, but Starry is always mentioned in passing. Overall, though, I very much enjoyed this multigenerational tale of women defining and understanding their identities.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.
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You Bring the Distant Near is a three generational saga about a Bengali family that migrates to London before coming to America. The author speaks through the voices of the women in each generation (during the years 1965 - 2006) and deftly shows the inward conflict immigrants face about trying to "fit in" while still honoring their original culture. It was intriguing to view America through the eyes of immigrants, and also interesting to learn different aspects of their culture; that the Bengalis also have a color-based caste/class system and that inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages are highly discouraged. I found it fascinating how the interactions between husband and wife, and parents and children changed the longer they were exposed to the American culture. 

This is a beautifully written book that is well worth the time to read it!! Enjoy!

Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Children's Publishing group for providing me with an ARC of this delightful book in exchange for an honest opinion.
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I really wanted to fall in love with this book, but I did feel that parts were jumbled, confusing and some disconnect from the characters. But I still recommend it for those who are looking to read more immigrant stories, a diverse read or reading something different altogether. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. Check out my linked review for my full thoughts.
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http://lowereastsidelibrarian.info/reviews/perkins/youbringthedistantnear
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Fascinating stories of different generations in a transplanted Indian family, growing up in 1960s-80s. Mitali Perkings is a wonderful writer who captures the various personalities and conflicts of race, culture, and environments over the life of a family (particularly daughters)!
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You Bring the Distant Near is one of the few books that had nothing I didn’t like.  This book beautifully covers assimilating to American culture and becoming a citizen while keeping ties to your heritage. Each character has their own voice and experiences as they continue some traditions and change others. I could not put this book down! Definitely go read it as soon as you can!
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YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR by Mitali Perkins is a multigenerational story of immigrants to America. Two Bengali daughters, Tara/Star and Sonia/Sunny move from London (after Ghana) to New York with their parents. For Tara, who aspires to be an actress, copying Marcia Brady means she has a sense of what to wear and how to act in 1970s America as she and her more rebellious yet studious sister learn to adjust to high school. 

Eventually, they fall in love, marry and have children of their own who struggle in turn with adolescent issues of identity and questions relative to race, culture and tolerance. Those cousins, Chantal and Anna, forge a special relationship with their immigrant grandmother, Ranee, who memorably has her own identity crisis while still revering her late husband. In fact, the title of Perkins' young adult novel refers to a line in a poem which the patriarch of this family recited to his bride and reflects their sometimes hidden affection and esteem along with the value of acceptance. YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR focuses on the importance of family, despite occasional stresses, and on mother-daughter conflicts as well as cultural assimilation. 

The novel is a fairly quick read and its 720 Lexile score should add to appeal for reluctant readers, although girls will have the most interest given the main characters and arc of the story. YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR has potential for a Junior Theme with immigrant experience emphasis (it has been referred to as an easier, Asian Indian version of The Joy Luck Club) or possibly as a mother/daughter read for a freshmen or sophomore advisory.  Starred reviews from Booklist, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.
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What a beautiful and gorgeous book! There's nothing more satisfying than when a story stays with you for a long time, and you carry it in your thoughts. If you know anything about me, I truly love multi-generational complicated stories that highlights relevant themes. 

This book is a truly powerful voice that is needed in the YA community. We follow three generations of an Indian-immigrant's, Bengali family, and we get a look into the nuance of culture and what it means to be biracial, and lots of feminism that's highlighted. If I could use one word to describe to this book, it would be important. 

Ranee is raising her two daughters, Sonia and Tara in a relatively American-focused culture and is worried that they'll use a part of their Indian culture. Sonia is in a "forbidden" biracial relationship, and a raging intersectional feminist that is trying to remake herself. Tara dreams of becoming a actress in the spotlight. 

Ultimately you will be delighted reading about the complicated relationships of sisterhood, parenthood, and the nuances of being a biracial individual. Then we also follow the perspectives of the two daughters of Tara and Sonia. In total, there are five kickas* women's stories that we get to explore, and I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect.

I couldn't stop reading this, because of the character's who were propelling it forward. All of the characters were so interesting and messy and I absolutely adored it. At first, there were a couple of extremely unlikable but the author frames it this way where you understand why the character does what it does. 

Diverse, lush, fantastic, a new favorite that I want everyone to push up on their tbr.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
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This is the story of three generations of Bengali women in America. It's told through five different perspectives and a really great mix of friendships, love, and finding yourself.

It's so rare to find books about South Asians, especially YA. Add in not one, but THREE interracial relationships as well as really strong female characters and this book is very diverse, which I love.

I really like how Renee's marriage is portrayed. It's arranged, but it doesn't fall in the extreme of an abusive forced relationship, or a perfect and extremely adorable one that most books about arranged marriages tend to do. It's able to toe the line of two clashing personalities and two people who genuinely care about each other perfectly. It's very realistic and such a refreshing take.

Most of the characters were very well written - realistic and flawed, yet likable at the same time. The only character I didn't like was Anna (or Anu). She had an uppity personality; like she was better than everyone else because of how 'truly Bengali' she was. She had a negative attitude towards Americans as well, and while it's understandable to have unrealistic expectations, the things she thought were quite arrogant. Her character growth wasn't really shown as much as it could have been.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The ending is a little abrupt, but other than that, the pacing is well done. It kept me captivated the entire time and I really love the writing. Definitely one of my favorites that I've read recently.
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Loved this novel about the immigrant experience. Poignant and funny. Highly recommend this one.
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Rating: 4.5 Stars

I was really nervous to start this book. It's not my usual read. But trying out new things, finding out what you like in a new situation while keeping certain traditions, that's what this book is all about.  And I'm so glad I did read it. It's inspiring, insightful, and brilliant. This is a beautiful story about three generations of women trying to make their own way in whole new worlds.

In the beginning, we follow Sonia and Tara, two sisters who are moving from London to New York. As they struggle to find their place in this new environment, the two sisters try to use their strengths to cope with the changes. Sonia is passionate and actively fights for civil rights. Tara isn't as academically gifted as her younger sister, but she loves to act and sing. They both grow out of the mold their mother has started to create for them with her traditional views on how her children should act. The two sisters both grow in their own way and create their own lives.

Which brings us to Shanti and Anna. Shanti is Sonia's daughter. As a girl who is half black and half Indian, she struggles with her identity. She is rejected from certain activities for not looking one way enough. Soon she grows to understand that she is who she makes herself to be, and no one can tell her one way or another. Anna is Tara's daughter who had been living in India for the most part before moving to America to live with her aunt and family. She has a hard time getting used to the culture and still clings to how things were for her in India.

The character who grew the most was Ranee, Tara's and Sonia's mother. In the beginning, she was strict with racist and sexist ideas. She had difficulty assimilating to the change and how things would be now that they were living in America. She doesn't react to Sonia's decisions after college well, but she does try. She has a couple of chapters where she is the focus of the narrative. Her thoughts in both of these are so different and you can see her growth by comparing the two. I wanted to pat her on the back. I did not like her at all in the beginning, but when the story focused on the granddaughters, I was warming up to her.

I think my favorite character was Sonia. She had to fight to be who she was, but she knew from the beginning. She knew what was important and what she should be focusing on.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was how time moved from chapter to chapter. Sometimes the events would be immediately after what had happened previously. In other cases it would be three years later. You could see the characters develop and it wasn't like the events that happened in the interim weren't explained, but it kind of threw me for a loop when I realized the plot had jumped forward. The writing is still great, and it didn't deter the story.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It was a startling read about identity, tradition, diversity, and what it means to be you. Who you want to be in spite of others telling you their idea of you. If this isn't your usual read, don't be afraid. You'll be flipping through the pages in no time.
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I really loved this book. It explores the experiences of being an immigrant, being multicultural, and being multiracial through the stories of five women in three generations of an Indian Bengali family loving in New York. They had distinct personalities and their own ways of seeing the world. I also loved the explicit feminist themes.
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This title brings together several strong female voices of the Das family tree. The reader is first treated to the experiences of sisters, Tara and Sonia Das. They are each struggling with the difficulty of navigating their new home in America. Sonia feels like the outcast in her family, though she excels at school. Sonia fights for female equality and other civil rights, even though their mother doesn't like her outspoken nature. Tara is not as academically gifted, but she shines as an actress. Tara quickly fits into her new home by mentally becoming Marsha Brady. Each sister finds a way to cope in her new environment. The novel continues to follow the sisters as the grow up and fall in love. Tara feels the strong pull of her Indian roots, while Sonia falls in love with a wonderful African American man. The sisters each have a daughter of their own. Their daughters are continued to be pitted against each other by their grandmother, like their mothers were before them. However, the change in old prejudices and values encourages the families to find ways to connect and remain strong. 

When I first read the reviews about this being a generational novel, I was super confused. The perspectives do alter throughout time, though it does take several pages for it to happen. This read like an adult novel and if the grandmother's perspective was developed more and present more, it could be an adult novel.
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The Good
I really enjoyed this book. It can be hard to do the multiple viewpoints, jumping through time sort of thing, but it worked here. For the most part, there were two time periods and they were kept separate, so I was never confused about who was narrating or what was going on.

The book hits on lots of important themes: death, love, marriage, belonging, etc., etc. It’s an immigration story, but it’s also a lot more than that. In particular, I appreciated the biracial relationship and the narrative of their child. This is something that I definitely want to see more of in literature and I thought it was portrayed well here. There were problems, but there were also success, and it wasn’t all drama drama drama all the time. I really liked how identity was portrayed in this case.

The Bad
At some points, I wanted more. The narration occasionally separated me a bit from the action. This wasn’t a huge problem, though, and didn’t make me like the book less. I just wanted more details about everything because I liked it so much!

The Verdict
A lovely addition to the Asian American books coming out recently. I recommend it.
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