Rummanah Aasi

Description: Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture--for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity--award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Review: You Bring the Distant Near is a multi-generational read that centers around the complexities of navigating multiple cultures, the immigrant experience, and understanding the different generations. While it doesn't offer anything new to the common motif in immigrant stories, it does a nice job in highlighting the importance of finding ones home despite where you are in the world.
   The story opens in 1970s New York, where the Das family has immigrated from England in hopes of planting roots and finding acceptance. Sisters Tara and Sonia are two teen girls who crave personal freedom and they often go against their mother Ranee's strict and traditional Indian values. Older sister Tara is known for her looks and her charisma is contagious. She longs to be an actress. Younger sister Sonia is introverted, incredibly intelligent, and a budding feminist Sonia. The tumultuous relationship between Sunny and Ranee is at the heart of the novel, representing the clash and resistance of and ultimate blending of cultures. In the United States, Ranee struggles in vain to hold on to her "Indianness," not only for herself, but also for her children. I really enjoyed this first half of the book as I connected with Sunny and Ranee the most. I could easily understand their conflicts between personal desire and their responsibilities to their culture. I think this is the strongest aspect of the book. I also appreciated the complexities of race and culture when it came to interracial marriage and gender roles.
  The second half of the book jumps through time where both Tara and Sunny have established lives with marriage and children. We now follow the narratives of their daughters, Anna and Chantal respectively. It is only through her connection to her granddaughters, Chantal and Anna that Ranee finds redemption and transformation. For me the second half of the book falters a bit as Perkins tries to touch upon different issues hurriedly such as racial imposter syndrome (where a person from multiple cultures don't see themselves in any culture), Islamophobia, and American patriotism.
  Though I enjoyed the multi-generational aspect to the story, which is not common in YA litertature, I think the book might have been stronger if there were two companion novels. Chantal and Anna are mirror images of their mothers and I would have liked to see them grow as individuals. I would also have loved for the nuisance and complex themes be explored in more details. Overall, You Bring the Distant Near is an enjoyable read that many readers can see themselves and shines a light on an experience that is actually more familiar than we think.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Joyluck Club by Amy Tan
2 Responses
  1. I have this on my TBR list as I really like MItlali Perkins' books.

  2. I couldn't put my finger on what bugged me about this book until I read your review. The first half is good and nicely paced. The second half in disjointed. It had lots of good moments but the whole is lacking.

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