Review: You Bring the Distant Near

Title: You Bring the Distant Near
Author: Mitali Perkins
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genres: Romance, Contemporary & Historical
Pages: 303
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley & personally purchased final copy
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: 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 Bengal tigers and 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: 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.

Extras: Our Interview with Mitali Perkins

 

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Group Discussion: #NotYourPrincess

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and MaryBeth Leatherdale is an incredible collection we highly recommend and we’re excited to be discussing it here today.

Summary: Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous girls and women across North America resound in this book. In the same visual style as the bestselling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, intergenerational trauma, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women demanding change and realizing their dreams. Sometimes outraged, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have had their history hidden and whose modern lives have been virtually invisible.

Crystal’s Review

Debbie Reese’s Review


Crystal: #NotYourPrincess is visually stunning. I love the attention to detail throughout the book like the use of borders and the pairings of text and artwork. The essay “The Invisible Indians” by Shelby Lisk (Mohawk) was accompanied by photos that illustrated how the stereotypes people have in their head render the actual people in front of them invisible. It made the text so powerful to have both parts. Do you all have any favorite visual pieces?

Audrey: I agree–this collection did a wonderful job of pairing beautiful artwork with powerful words. When I read, I typically don’t find myself backtracking, but I did more than once with #NotYourPrincess so I could go back and forth between the text and the art it had been paired with. My absolute favorite set is the poem “When I Have a Daughter” by Ntawnis Piapot (Piapot Cree Nation) with the piece Memories by Aura Last (Oneida).

Jessica: It’s so hard to choose a favorite — they were all incredible in their own way. Two stood out to me in particular. The first was A Conversation with a Massage Therapist by Francine Cunningham — I saw the picture first and didn’t realize the context until I read the conversation beneath it that portrayed a massage therapist casually throwing around harmful stereotypes during a massage session. The second one was Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood by Pamela J. Peters, which recreated classic Hollywood portraits with Native American actors. Both demonstrated how harmful stereotypes were in the different ways they manifested themselves, whether through media and Hollywood, or through everyday conversations.

K. Imani: This collection, the mix of artwork with the amazing poetry, was absolutely beautiful. For me, I can’t choose between the two poems of “The Things We Taught Our Daughters” and “Honor Song”. I found both to be extremely moving as both talked about reclamation of the feminine and and the power that women have inside of them.

Crystal: In “Reclaiming Indigenous Women’s Rights” Nahanni Fontaine (Anishinaabe) writes, “Patriarchy is quite simply the systematic oppression and regulation of women’s bodies, minds, and spirits. Patriarchy sets the markers and outlines the box of what we can and cannot do; say or cannot say; think or cannot think; express or cannot express; live or cannot live.” Fontaine has clearly delineated patriarchy and the colonial legacy. Her essay, along with many other pieces here, not only explains how we got to where we are, but also marks out a path for the future. I think this is such a powerful text and I’m excited that young women, and specifically young indigenous women, could have this book available to them.

Audrey: I think that path for the future is one of the most important themes in #NotYourPrincess. The women in these pages are resilient, and several times they address past (and current) violence, pain, and other trials. Yet the collection always circles back to the triumph of survival and hope for the future. Fontaine’s essay really cuts to the heart of #NotYourPrincess. So does the opening text of the book, from Leanne Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg): “I am always trying to escape—from dangerous situations, from racist stereotypes, from environmental destruction in my territory, and from the assault on my freedom as an individual and as part of the Nishnaabeg nation. As an Indigenous person, I have to escape in order to survive, but I don’t just escape. I hold this beautiful, rich Indigenous decolonial space inside and around me. I am escaping into Indigenous freedom. I am escaping into Indigenous land and my Indigenous body.”

Jessica: I loved how everything was connected together in the book. Patriarchy and colonialism and oppression were all tied together, and then a goal was laid out of not just escape, but escape to a space of freedom and equality. And all this is possible through the strength of generations of women. I’m glad I read #NotYourPrincess all in one go, since it allowed me to see all these themes and works of art flowing together.

K. Imani: The theme of fighting the Patriarchy and colonialism throughout the book made me want to stand up and clap for all of these artists. These are women recognizing their power and owning it. Jessica Deer’s essay, “We Are Not A Costume” was so poignant specifically when she simply states “While someone may think they look supercute as an “Indian Princess” or as “Reservation Royalty” for a fun and harmless evening, they have the privilege of removing that costume at the end of the night. Indigenous women and girls do not. We have to deal with ongoing marginalization and the lingering effects of colonization, like a culture that normalizes violence against us.” I can imagine many young girls reading this passage, find their voice, and speak out against in justice towards marginalized peoples.

Crystal: This book shares so many examples of female role models. There are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and more. I couldn’t help but start to think about the women in my life who taught me what it meant to move through the world as a woman. The book invites such wonderings and offers some awesome role models. I’m eager to see the responses from young indigenous women reading this. I think it could be extremely encouraging.

Audrey: I agree! “What’s There to Take Back?” by Tiffany Midge (Hunkpapa Lakota) was all about her role models of Indigenous womanhood–real role models, not terrible stereotypes like Tiger Lily. Many of the pieces in #NotYourPrincess are about connection with past and future generations and learning from others. I also really enjoyed the piece “Living Their Dreams” with the photo spread of athletes Shoni Schimmel (Umatilla), September Big Crow (Tsuu T’ina Nation), Ashton Locklear (Lumbee), and Brigitte Lacquette (Ojibwe). It’s not often that I see professional athletes held up as role models for young women, so I loved seeing all of them in powerful, confident poses, representing four different sports, and talking about their experiences.

K. Imani: I agree with both of you. “What’s There to Take Back?” was another one of my favorites as well because the examples that Midge gave for true role models were all kick-butt women. I can see so many young girls being inspired by learning about Indigenous women who are out there fighting the good fight and are being awesome. I especially enjoyed the passage titled “Good Medicine” which was an interview with Janet Smylie. I found her story to be inspiring and a wonderful message for young girls who are struggling to know that they can overcome their challenges and achieve.

Crystal: In “Dear Past Self,” Isabella Fillspipe (Oglala Lakota) wrote, “If you have something to say Say it. Life is too short to sit in silence. And stop trying to please other people.” I really wish teen me had heard such things enough times to believe them. This is a message many young women could benefit from.

Audrey: There are so many wonderful lines in #NotYourPrincess, and I hope that this book makes its way into the hands of many girls and women, especially Indigenous girls and women.

Jessica: Yeah, the focus on different generations — past, present, and future — Indigenous women was incredible.

Audrey: One of the quotes that stayed with me after I finished was by Tanaya Winder (Duckwater Shosone): “As Indigenous women writers and artists we are continually trying to exist, live, and love in a world that doesn’t always show its love for us. This means, part of the artist’s call is to turn past traumas on their heads, upside down, inside out, lift it up then put it back down as something changed and transformed so that others can find something beautiful or hopeful in it. For that beauty and hope to exist we as Native American women must dive headfirst into the muck, ugliness, stark darkness of that wreckage. This is what we do–we recast wounds in unending light. And so, light, love, and courage are circles we keep coming back to.” It’s a powerful message, and  I find that a lot of creators from other marginalized groups have embraced similar philosophies when writing about their own communities.

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Author Interview – M.A. and J.L. Powers

Today we welcome and M.A. and J.L. Powers to the blog. We appreciate their willingness to answer questions about Broken Circle, their writing life and more.

What was the inspiration for this world where souls are being shepherded after bodily
death?

M.A. Powers

M.A.: When I began thinking about personifications of death (such as the Grim Reaper) and what it would mean to shepherd the souls of the dead, the first image that popped into my mind was, of course, Charon poling clients across the river Styx in a flat-bottomed skiff. For the newly dead, the river Styx represents an insurmountable obstacle to the afterlife unless they are given, or pay for, help by a knowledgeable guide with a boat. This image turned into a conscious and subconscious working framework for our concept of Limbo, that unique place between life and death where a newly dead soul requires help to navigate.

Our Charon characters, Soul Guides, come from human families loosely based on the legends of supernatural personifications of death such as the Angel of Death, Grim Reaper, and Dullahan. Like Charon, they have special abilities to navigate Limbo and help the newly dead overcome their own personal Styx (an obstacle to accepting death). This “River Styx” for each person (“Limbo”) is developed subconsciously throughout their lifetime.

For us, the concept gave us a great vehicle to explore people’s fears, wants and desires and it is relatable because we all struggle to accept our own mortality. In this world, only someone who has completely accepted their own person, and has become friends with the concept of mortality, could cross Limbo without help from a guide. I feel, as humans, this is a very rare condition. Our refusal to accept death is a refusal to accept our own life and struggle.

The monster Adam repeatedly encounters is rather terrifying. I felt hints of La Llorona there. Was she an influence?

J.L. Powers

J.L.: I’m sure La Llorona was a subconscious influence. I don’t want to say too much about the similarities between La Llorona and the monster character in the book because it includes too many spoilers for readers who haven’t read the book yet. But let me just say that Matt and I grew up in El Paso, Texas, where the story of La Llorona is beloved and much told. As you know, I work at Cinco Puntos Press and our children’s picture book La Llorona is one of our best-selling books so the tale is something that is both extremely familiar and undoubtedly was an influence.

What was your favorite part about writing Broken Circle?

M.A.: First, my favorite part was writing with my sister who is a great idea generator and developer and could make my wild, and often pathetic, stab at writing dialogue pop!

Also, the laughter. We have a similar sense of humor and had laughing fits over parts of the book that may not seem funny to some readers.

Second, I was trained rigorously in biochemistry and genetics. My favorite part of
science was the intellectual pursuit of generating a hypothesis. Hypothesis is just a
fancy word for “scientific fiction production” and is the state of acquiring a handful of
seemingly unrelated and confusing facts and imagining a scenario where they do make sense. Furthermore, you have to propose tests that will confirm or reject this scenario. Although it did have its high points, I was not particularly fond of performing those tests because it was often repetitive and tedious for me.

Writing Broken Circle was a constant stream of generating hypotheses (In our case,
fiction based on world building rules instead of fiction based on a set of known facts)
and did not include any of the lab bench drudgery!

What does the collaboration process look like for you two?

M.A.: It’s a chaotic miasma of interruptions from our children and herky-jerky writing all dependent on babysitting schedules and poop. Yeah, when something smells funny, it’s time to stop writing and get out fresh pampers.

Our worst interruption was on a Skype call. I put my 9-month- old in the Bumbo on the table and turned my back to get the little table thing to snap her in when I heard a dull “THUNK” and then crying. She had launched herself out of the snug foam leg holes and off the table and was lying in a small heap of brown corduroy and pink onesie on our scratched hardwood floor.

Horrified, I scooped her up and yelled goodbye to Jessica as I rushed off to the emergency room, fearing I had irreparably broken my baby. My daughter was fine! In fact, she had stopped crying by the time I had put her in the car seat but I forged ahead, determined to do penance at the hospital by being “That Dad” who put his kid on the table and turned his back. Obviously, I needed a stiffer penance to get right with the god of muse. The book we were collaborating on at the time has yet to be finished. Karma?

Did you do any specific preparation before crafting the characters who are from cultural backgrounds that are different from your own?

J.L.: Over the years, I’ve become known for writing books about characters who are from cultural backgrounds that are different from my own. The process is similar each time. First of all, I should say that in most cases, it’s sort of organic. I don’t pull a culture from my hat and think, ‘Let me write about XYZ.’ For me, I am writing out of both my personal experiences with cultures I’ve lived within as well as professional knowledge. Just as an example, we have a Latina character in this book, Liliana La Muerte. As I said, Matt and I grew up in El Paso, Texas, which is 75% Latin@ and, specifically, Mexican and Mexican-American. We grew up in a neighborhood where we were the only white kids. In many ways, Mexican and Mexican-American culture is much more familiar to us and safe for us than the white American mainstream culture that we look like we’re supposed to be from. But of course, that level of familiarity doesn’t give us a pass. I try to do meticulous research: reading books and articles, talking to people, traveling as needed, immersing myself as much as possible so that I can present authentic and accurate characters, and asking other people from those cultures to read it and be brutally honest about errors….

Broken Circle is the beginning of a series. Are you able to share anything about the future books?

J.L.: That’s a scary question! We are working on Book 2, and I’m also starting to work on Book ½ (yes, there is a Book ½ in our series, just like the ½ chapters….). One thing you might be interested to know is that Book 2 starts almost at the same place where Book 1 leaves off, and it will end up in Chicago. So Chicago, here we come!

Also, we will explore the world of Limbo and Soul Guides a bit more in-depth as that has been one critique from readers—they’d like to have more information or world-building about those concepts. You’ve spoken, we’re listening, we’ll respond!

I think people should know that we planted some things in the first book that will emerge as bigger plot points in later books, but we tried to plant them in a way that people don’t notice them in the first book. So hopefully it’ll be this wonderful exploration over time….

You’re a blogger at The Pirate Tree. Could you share a little about that work and why you
are involved there?

J.L.: I helped to start The Pirate Tree with other like-minded authors who want to examine children’s literature positively from a social justice angle. This is a very broad mandate. A lot of times, people think that if you’re looking at social justice and children’s literature, you’re looking for issue-driven books. Not so! In fact, I definitely am not interested in books that appear preachy or have a moral attached. Any book can be examined for how it treats the human condition and how it analyzes society and the status quo. And good literature automatically does that. Our goal is to present and celebrate books that we think demonstrate a commitment to developing a more peaceful and just world.

In addition to being an author, you’ve also worked in publishing with Cinco Puntos Press and now you’re starting Catalyst Press. Can you tell us a little about that work and what keeps you working to publish the work of others?

J.L.: I started working with Cinco Puntos in 2002, if you can believe it! And I still work for Cinco Puntos Press. I absolutely love our books, which are some of the most important multicultural books being published today. We have been publishing diverse books since the 1980s—long before there was any kind of movement for it.

And I started Catalyst Press and Story Press Africa because I wanted to publish African writers and African-based literature. There’s a huge gap. Eventually, I want to branch out to publishing other indigenous literature from other parts of the world, but this is where I’m starting because of my own expertise—I have two graduate degrees in African history. And I can’t state often enough how much I love Africans and the continent of Africa….

I love to write, but I also love books altogether. I believe books change the world. So to me it is a supreme pleasure to be able to present important books to the world that might be overlooked by mainstream publishers.

You may find M.A. and J.L. Powers at www.powerssquared.com

M.A.  newborn – J.L. 2 1/2

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New Releases

There are quite a few new releases this week and I’m excited for several of them.

 

27 Hours (The Nightside Saga #1) by Tristina Wright
Entangled: Teen

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

Wild BeautyWild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
Feiwel & Friends

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor
Viking Books for Young Readers

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.

Broken Circle by J.L. and M.A. Powers
Black Sheep

Adam wants nothing more than to be a “normal” teen, but his reality is quickly leaking normal. Afraid to sleep because of the monster that stalks him in his dreams, Adam’s breakdown at school in front of his crush Sarah lands him in the hospital.

Now Adam can only vaguely comprehend some sort of future. His mother died when he was only four and his eccentric father—who might be an assassin, a voodoo god, the reincarnation of the Buddha, or something even stranger—is never available when Adam really needs him.

Adam’s life takes an even stranger turn when a fat man with a gold tooth and a medallion confronts his father regarding Adam’s supposed “true destiny.” Adam is soon headed toward a collision with life, death, and the entities charged with shepherding souls of the newly dead, all competing to control lucrative territories where some nightmares are real and psychopomps of ancient legends walk the streets of North America.

Seize Today (Forget Tomorrow #3) by Pintip Dunn
Entangled: Teen

The third book in the New York Times bestselling and RITA award winning Forget Tomorrow series is a thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old precognitive Olivia Dresden is an optimist. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can literally see the path to goodness in each person—if only he or she would make the right decision. No one is more conflicted than her mother, Chairwoman Dresden, and Olivia is fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.

But when the Chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, a boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia is forced to reevaluate her notions of love and faith. With Ryder’s help, Olivia must come to terms with who her mother is in the present—and stop her before she destroys the world.

Not Your VillainNot Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) by C.B. Lee

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
First Second

Pashmina tells the story of an Indian-American girl who struggles to fit in at high school, then discovers more about her family’s history with the help of her mother’s magical pashmina.

— Cover images and summaries via Goodreads

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Review: #NotYourPrincess

Title: #NotYourPrincess
Editors: Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale
Publisher: Annick Press
Genre: Nonfiction collection
Pages: 109
Availability: October
Review copy: Final copy provided by publisher

Summary: Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous girls and women across North America resound in this book. In the same visual style as the bestselling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, intergenerational trauma, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women demanding change and realizing their dreams. Sometimes outraged, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have had their history hidden and whose modern lives have been virtually invisible.

Review: #NotYourPrincess is another fabulous collection brought to us by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. The magic of the book is that the many voices are seen and heard through a wide variety of formats with the design of the book framing the pieces beautifully. In most cases artwork compliments the texts and the words provide context for the artwork. There are images on nearly every spread and it’s a magnificent visual experience.

The stories shared both visually and in text reveal what it means to these women to be Native. They share challenges, triumphs, losses, hopes, family ties and so much more. These are stories that acknowledge the pain of the past, but also point to strength, resilience, and hope for the future. In the essay “Reclaiming Indigenous Women’s Rights,” Nahanni Fontaine (Anishinaabe) explains it this way, “When we begin to understand the colonial legacy and its collateral damage to the minds and bodies of Indigenous women, we can begin to forgive, accept, and heal ourselves from the countless hurtful, damaging ways in which this trauma manifests itself.”

These stories do not ignore the past, but they are very much stories of the present and the future. The many voices sound out against the stereotypes that often prevent people from seeing and recognizing Native women. The women ask to be seen as they are – not as they are expected to be. This is especially obvious in “A Conversation with a Massage Thereapist” by Francine Cunningham (Cree/Métis). The questions the massage therapist asks reveal much about biases people can have. The therapist asks, “What are you?” Indigenous and Cree are answers, but they are pretty much discounted as the therapist responds with, “You don’t really look it.” After learning that the person was raised in the city, “Oh, well, I guess you’re not a real one then?” It doesn’t take long to realize this person has completely succumbed to stereotypes. In “The Invisible Indians,” white-faced, red-haired Shelby LIsk (Mohawk) writes about a similar point of view. “They want fantastical stories of the Indians that used to roam this land. They want my culture behind glass in a museum. But they don’t want me. I’m not Indian enough.”

There are also many examples of confident young women who are using their strengths. We see young women like AnnaLee Rain Yellowhammer (Hunkapapa, Standing Rock Sioux) who are demanding to be heard. She’s an activist fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline and has been raising her voice loud and clear in defense of the land, water, and her tribe.

Lisa Charleyboy describes this as a “love letter to all young Indigenous women trying to find their way.” This is an excellent description. Readers will find love and encouragement here on every page.

Recomendation: #NotYourPrincess should be available in all young adult collections. Get it as soon as it’s available.

Extras:

Excerpt available here

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Interview: Mitali Perkins

We’re excited that Mitali Perkins was willing to answer a few questions for us. She’s likely to be busier than ever as her most recent book, You Bring the Distant Near recently made the longlist of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Congratulations Mitali and thanks so much for sharing with us.

You Bring the Distant Near
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers / Macmillan Publishers

Summary: This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.


You Bring the Distant Near shows three generations of a family. Did this multi-generational aspect create challenges as you wrote?

The challenge came in balancing the four younger voices, as one of the story’s main threads is the slow, healing change in the relationship between Ranee and the U.S.A. The blessing of writing fiction, however, is that you get to express multiple personalities, so all four girls are different versions of me, more or less.

What led you to write this story of family and identity?

This novel is my love letter to the country where my parents brought me when I was seven years old. It’s my celebration of being hyphenated, caught in that narrow place between cultures — something I’ve been exploring throughout my writing life. My personal need to be grateful for my U.S. citizenship and the “healing of my hyphen” (sounds weird, I know, sorry) converged with what I see as a national need for gratitude and healing.

There are five perspectives in this story. Did one of the characters resonate with you more than the others?

I am most like Sonia — a bookish introvert who loves to write and read and has wanted to champion the marginalized since I can remember.

You likely had your own struggles with identity as an immigrant teen. What or who helped you navigate that?

Reading was my lifeline. I started reading early and became an addict of story. To imagine other lives as a child is akin to learning a language early: you become fluent in learning to walk inside someone else’s skin. I’m so grateful for the libraries that fed my addiction when I couldn’t afford to buy books.

Have you always been a storyteller?

I’ve always been a story-lover. My father was a fantastic storyteller. He loved to make us laugh by playing with language. I’m still growing into that identity myself.

On your blog, I saw you have created a playlist for this novel. Are these songs you listened to while writing to step back in time or are they related to the story in some other way?

Most of the songs I compiled in the playlist are mentioned in the novel. The first one, “To Sir With Love,” is especially poignant to me and and my sisters as it would be to Sonia and Tara in the novel as I see it as a tribute to our wonderful Daddy, who is very much like the fictional father in YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR.

Mitali Perkins with her mother and sisters in front of the library after arriving in the 1970s. (photo provided by author)

Where to learn more about Mitali Perkins online: Author website, Blog, Twitter and Facebook.

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