You Bring the Distant Near

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
You Bring the Distant Near Book Poster Image
Empowering tale of pursuing dreams, honoring heritage.

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age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Filled with the expected educational insights into saris, Indian food, arranged marriages, and the traditional roles of women in India. But Perkins also writes in detail about the Shradh ceremony performed after the death of a family member and a trip taken to Bangladesh in order to properly scatter his ashes in the country of his birth. There are brief but vivid glimpses into life in colonial Ghana and into village and city life in Bangladesh.

Positive Messages

You can forge your own strong identity while still honoring your family's traditions and culture.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sonia creates a life for herself that shatters the cultural norms of what's expected of a young Bengali woman. But in that new life, she never loses respect for the values cherished by her parents. Ranee moves from being a very traditional Indian wife who clings to tradition and rejects her own daughter for marrying an African-American to a woman who joyfully embraces the ethnic diversity of her family and friends.

Violence

After 9/11, someone spits on a Muslim character and someone tries to pull off her headscarf.

Sex

A few kisses.

Language

Name calling: characters are called "curry cookers."

Consumerism

Lots of references to personalities (Twiggy), TV shows (The Avengers and The Brady Bunch), and musicians (Simon and Garfunkel) from the 1970s as well as books Sonia is reading (Little Women, The Outsiders, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that You Bring the Distant Near is the story of three generations of strong and independent Indian-American women. Ranee, the family matriarch, is a traditional Indian wife whose view of the world around her will undergo a remarkable transformation. Her daughters (Tara and Sonia) and her granddaughters (Anna and Chantal) all take personal and career paths that would have been unthinkable to women of Ranee's generation. Written in alternating chapters by Tara, Sonia, Anna, and Chantal, the novel begins in 1965 in Ghana and moves to England, the United States, and Bangladesh before ending in 2006. This is a heartwarming story about family, feminism, falling in love, and balancing personal dreams with cultural expectations. There are a few kisses, and violence is limited to a slap. Author Mitali Perkins was born in India and has lived in Bangladesh, England, Ghana, and the U.S. You Bring the Distant Near was nominated for a 2017 National Book Award. 

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Teen, 13 years old Written byNatalie Grace January 18, 2018

You Bring the Distant Near

This is a wonderous story of four kind and their Didu, as they find who they are and will be. All readers will be able to understand something about at least on... Continue reading

What's the story?

All three generations of women in YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR have a story to tell. When the Das family moves first to London and then to New York City in the early 1970s, Ranee is intent on seeing that Sonia and Tara, her teen daughters, honor their Bengali heritage and values. Not surprisingly, they have other ideas. As the novel unfolds, Sonia and Tara grow into independent women often in conflict with their mother. Sonia becomes a journalist and a "feminist, Catholic wife of a Louisiana black man." Tara moves to India and becomes a Bollywood star. When the story moves to 1998, Sonia's daughter, Chantal, and Tara's daughter, Anna, are both attending high school in New York City. Like their mothers, each is determined to find her own path in life. But unlike their mothers, they have the support of Ranee, who once clung to tradition and strongly disapproved of her daughter's interracial marriage, but is now an independent woman who embraces the ethnic diversity of her family and friends.

Is it any good?

This is a heartwarming, empowering story of generational conflict, mothers and daughters, first loves, feminism, and pursuing your dreams while respecting your heritage. While the first two thirds of You Bring the Distant Near has extremely strong and compelling storylines related by Sonia and Tara, readers may find that the last third, voiced by their daughters, Chantal and Anna, is a bit of a letdown. Chantal's relationship with a wealthy Porsche-driving white boy and Anna's determination to start a Fashion Design Club at their high school seem tepid after Sonia and Tara's dreams and dramas.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the generational conflict in You Bring the Distant Near. Do your grandparents or parents have values or traditions you think are old-fashioned and have no place in today's world?

  • One of the characters believes that in America, there is "space for lots of identities." Do you believe that's true? Do you think most Americans would agree?

  • To fit in at her new schools, Tara believes she has to act, dress, and (as much as possible) look like someone other students will want to get to know. In London, she chooses fashion model Twiggy, and in New York City, TV character Marcia Brady. Are there certain ways of dressing or acting that help students fit in at your school? What ways would make them outsiders? 

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