A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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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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?
- Author: Mitali Perkins
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: October 12, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 303
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 10, 2020
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