Thanks to Barnes and Noble for hosting an exclusive cover reveal and excerpt of FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU, my novel releasing 4/2/19 from Macmillan FSG. Here's the description of the book:
Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past. 
Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in India and is reluctant to take on his future. If he can’t find his roots, how can he possibly plan ahead? 
Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places—a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds build between the travelmates, Robin and Kat discover that justice and healing are tangled, like the pain of their pasts and the hope for their futures. You can’t rewind life; sometimes you just have to push play. 
In turns heart wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins's new novel focuses its lens on the ripple effects of violence—across borders and generations—and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.

Which Indian Language Do I Speak? I'm Glad You Asked!

When I visit schools for author visits in the United States I ask if anyone in the room has heard of Bengali, or Bangla, my mother tongue. Apart from a few raised hands here and there, most non-Indian students don’t know much about the wide variety of languages in the country of my birth. Twenty-two major languages are spoken in India, including Bangla, which is the seventh most commonly-spoken language in the world.

I encourage students not to ask people of Indian descent this question (which I hear a lot): “Hey, do you speak Indian?” To sound well-educated and polite, I suggest this instead: “Pardon me, which Indian language do you speak?”

To a native Bengali speaker, the pronunciation of Bangla is important. The people of Bangladesh even fought a war of independence over the language, asserting their right to use Bangla as the official language instead of the Urdu spoken in Pakistan. A Bengali can tell immediately if a speaker is Bengali when she says “rosho-goll-ah,” one of our favorite sweet delicacies. In Hindi and Urdu, those white, juicy balls of sugar and milk are pronounced “ras-gu-llah,” without the rounded “o” and “sh” sounds of Bangla. Hindi nouns are either masculine or feminine; Bangla nouns have no gender. The languages are as different as German is from French.

That’s why I was grateful when Sarah Jaffe, the producer of the audio versions of Rickshaw Girl and Tiger Boy, asked me to send video renditions of the Bengali words in both books. I’m excited that the narrators, who are both South Asian but not Bengali, took the time to learn how to pronounce the Bangla words and phrases. In the audio versions, Zehra Jane Naqvi and Sunil Malhotra say “illish” (a kind of fish) and “rikshah” (rickshaw) the way I heard them growing up.

If you and your family listen to these books and your ancestors didn’t originate in South Asia, I highly recommend you head to your local Indian grocery store and buy a tin of “Rosho-Goll-Ah.” (You might even want to ask the clerks politely which Indian language they speak; I can almost guarantee you won’t offend.) At home, heat up these juicy treats and make some tea as you enjoy the beautiful narration in the audio versions of these stories. My hope is that you feel as if you’re traveling together to the villages of Bengal, where both of my parents grew up.

Listen to clips from the audio versions of RICKSHAW GIRL (read by Zehra Naqvi) and TIGER BOY (read by Sunil Malhotra).



YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR (Macmillan | FSG) has received some exciting responses. Before it came out, EW picked it as one of the most anticipated young adult novels of the year. On release day, which is thrilling enough, I heard that it was nominated for the National Book AwardIt also won a Walter Honor Award! I was thrilled, to say the least.

The book received praise from Bustle and Teen Vogueand SIX  starred reviews (Publishers WeeklyHorn BookSchool Library JournalShelf AwarenessVOYA, and Booklist.) The New York Public LibrarySchool Library JournalHorn Book, and Publishers Weekly all featured it as one of the best books of the year

It's also one of the titles on the Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the Amelia Bloomer list of recommended feminist fiction literature, both curated by the American Library Association. Meanwhile, on the audiobook side, the beautifully-narrated version of the novel was an Audie Award finalist. Yay! Celebrate with me, friends.

Read an excerpt.
Download the discussion guide.
It's also available in a magnificent audio version, performed by five uber-talented actors.

You Bring The Distant Near | Macmillan FSG | YA/Adult

★ "An unforgettable novel that spans decades and continents as it moves among three generations of Indian women, some new immigrants to the U.S., all struggling to bridge cultures ... Perkins’s vibrantly written exploration of a family in transition is saturated with romance, humor, and meaningful reflections on patriotism, blended cultures, and carving one’s own path. " — Publishers Weekly starred review 

★ "Full of sisterhood, diversity, and complex, strong women, this book will speak to readers as they will undoubtedly find a kindred spirit in at least one of the Das women." — Booklist starred review 

★ "An intricately woven examination of identity and culture and the ways these forces interact .... The characters are full of genuine warmth and affection for one another, even when they struggle to show it." — VOYA starred review 

 "An ambitious narrative that illuminates past and present, departure and reunion, women and family." — Horn Book starred review

  "This stunning book about immigration and cultural assimilation is a must-purchase for teen and new adult collections." — School Library Journal starred review

  "With wisdom and wit, You Bring the Distant Near illustrates the beauty in diversity. Perkins's striking imagery and deep, heartfelt insights illuminate the darkest corners of ignorance, providing a bright path to understanding and embracing differences in all their many splendors." — Shelf Awareness starred review

"This touching, intricately layered novel follows an Indian American family who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s as it adjusts to life here and faces both opportunities and struggles over time ... Accomplished storytelling, vividly drawn characters and details that capture the changing American zeitgeist broaden this vibrant book’s appeal beyond its target audience. Readers across the generations will take it to their hearts." — Washington Post

"The fully fleshed characters and complex family dynamics provide a vibrant background for exploration of multigenerational adaptation to a diverse America and of the familial and romantic love that nourishes their new roots." — Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

"Perkins tells a nuanced, quintessentially American story. She affectionately traces four young women’s interrelated yet distinct paths to determining their identities, and, later in the book, adds a fifth. Ranee, the Das family matriarch, has long lived according to Bengali tradition. In her 60s, she embarks on a process of discovery familiar to many immigrants who move to this country as adults: She reshapes herself from the blended clay of her native and adopted homes."  Chicago Tribune

"This ambitious multigenerational story of finding identity and acceptance is inspired by the author’s own experience as the youngest of three sisters who arrived in the United States in the 1970s. The exquisite narrative journeys across time and geography — from Ghana to London to Harlem — and crosses borders of love, faith, and culture."— Teen Vogue

"Features inspiring South Asian girl and women protagonists grappling with love, faith, and culture, as well as the intersections among their personal, communal, and national histories ... lushly drawn and emotionally resonant. ― Kirkus

You Bring the Distant Near | Songs for the Novel

VISITED: An Advent Poem

 Visited: An Advent Poem

by Mitali Perkins

We wait.
Heavy footsteps pass our cell.
Again. Once more.
Not this time. Not for us.
And then.
They stop.
Key in our door?
We leap off the cot.
The guard grunts the words we’ve been imagining:
“You’re visited.”
The halls reek of bleach and blood.
Who cares?
We want to skip, and race, and dance.
But our feet in regulation black must trudge behind slow boots.

Meanwhile, he’s traveled.
Miles and miles on deserted, dusty roads.
To reach his destination. (Where we are. Where we live.)
Checks in at the Visitor’s Center.
Reminds them of an appointment he made long ago.
Shows his ID.
They check for weapons; he has none.
They let him keep his signet ring.
Everything else must go.
Now the detector lets him through.
Two sliding gates, electrified.
Barbed wire encircles him into a trap. (With us. Where we live.)
Across the gray, dreary courtyard, cameras track his lonely stride.
No living leaf in sight.

Again, they frisk him.
Again, he flashes credentials.
Big keys unlock the last door.
Inside, he takes a seat.

We burst into the room, pushing past our guard.
Who scowls but lets it go.
This time. This one time.
Because there he is.
Rising to his feet.
Eyes alight at the sight of us.
Throws his arms around our tired bodies.
We feel his tears on our cheeks.
Or are they ours?

This room is bursting with reunion.
Couples play cards as if they’re home by the fire.
Children dance near two pairs of knees.
Fathers hold the hands of sons who have eaten with pigs.

We feast on chips and soda from the vending machine.
They taste like baguettes and red wine.
Leaning in, he lowers his voice:
“Is it well, my darling, my own?”

We tell him everything: the wrongs, the wounds, the waiting.
But they belong to yesterday.
Now, all is well.
Today, we are visited.

I wrote this poem after visiting a friend in Corcoran State Prison. 


Happy Paperback Launch, TIGER BOY!

To celebrate the paperback release of TIGER BOY (Charlesbridge | 6/6), the Avid Reader (apt name for an indie, right?) in Davis, California is hosting an event. You're invited to join us if you're in the Sacramento Valley area.
The Avid Reader is excited to welcome Mitali Perkins for a reading, discussion, and signing of her fast-paced and well researched chapter book, “Tiger Boy” on Saturday, June 17th at 1:00 p.m. 
In a starred review, the School Library Journal writes, “Sure to encourage vital conversations among children, this is a fine addition to libraries and classrooms seeking to diversify collections.” 
When a tiger cub escapes from a nature reserve near Neel’s island village, the rangers and villagers hurry to find her before the cub’s anxious mother follows suit and endangers them all. Mr. Gupta, a rich newcomer to the island, is also searching—he wants to sell the cub’s body parts on the black market. Neel and his sister, Rupa, resolve to find the cub first and bring her back to the reserve where she belongs. The hunt for the cub interrupts Neel’s preparations for an exam to win a prestigious scholarship at a boarding school far from home. Neel doesn’t mind—he dreads the exam and would rather stay on his beloved island in the Sunderbans of West Bengal with his family and friends. But through his encounter with the cub, Neil learns that sometimes you have to take risks to preserve what you love. And sometimes you have to sacrifice the present for the chance to improve the future.
Event date: Saturday, June 17, 20171-2 p.m.
The Avid Reader
617 2nd Street
Davis, CA 95616

I'm a FUNNY GIRL, no matter what my kids say

"A collection of uproarious stories, rollicking comics, rib-tickling wit, and more,
from 25 of today’s funniest female writers for kids."

Happy Book Birthday to Betsy Bird, editor of FUNNY GIRL (Penguin Random House, 5/9/17) and to all 24 of the other contributors. Here we are, as imagined by author and artist Amy Ignatow:

Note my tiny, regal body. I am revealed as the Queen of Snaildom.

Praise for FUNNY GIRL:

* “Stellar. . . . Will surely appeal to a wide audience. ”– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “Certain to fit the bill for just about any child looking for a good laugh or 20.”– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Timely . . . girl-power humor for the middle-grade set.”– The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Hilarious and heartfelt, this won’t only appeal to future funny girls and boys, it’ll inspire them.”–Booklist

Cheering for a real RICKSHAW GIRL

My book RICKSHAW GIRL is about a fictional girl who defies gender roles to try and make money for her family. A friend recently sent me a link to this portrayal of the brave and beautiful Sumi Begum, a young woman who pedals the streets of Dhaka pulling a rickshaw to provide for her family. Her story is heartbreaking and inspiring.

DIVESTMENT: A Good Friday Poem

From time to time, I've posted poems about Good Friday, like this one, and this one. Here is this year's offering.

DIVESTMENT: A Good Friday Poem

By Mitali Perkins

Who speaks, I wonder?

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. Who can request this—as nails tear bones and flesh—but Divinity?

The emptying begins.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. Enough Power still to Promise.

Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother. Some Strength left to Shepherd.

But Kairos is slipping away. He's divesting. Next comes the ancient question of Humanity, the wail of those trapped in chains of chronology.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

I thirst. Oh! It's the primal cry of a Child, the Sick, the Old, anyone too weak to sate this need unaided.

It is finished. In one fading moment, the thunder of God and whisper of Man co-utter parallel declarations.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. The frightening freedom of faith, breathed by faint and feeble voice.

Now all is silence. He is crushed by powerless me, drained of Divinity, driven to dust only by this: his quest to liberate and rule with me.

And so I try to speak.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR Exclusive Cover Reveal!

Thanks to Bustle for a lovely review and exclusive cover reveal of my forthcoming novel, YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR (Macmillan FSG | 9/17).

"Perkins' new YA novel isn't just an exploration of family, but a tracing of its transformation as it crosses oceans and borderlines. 'You Bring the Distant Near' captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, this elegant YA novel explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture — for better or worse."

A Poem: Four Men at Mule Creek State Prison

Four Men at Mule Creek State Prison

By Mitali Perkins

He puts on his bifocals and opens the family Bible. For two hours, he reads verses of hope to her in quiet Tagalog. A handkerchief, embroidered by hands buried far away, receives her tears.

She sprints across the room at the sight of him. He scoops her up and she kisses his clean-shaven cheek two dozen times. Her beribboned braids hide his tattoo as he bends to long-kiss her mother on the mouth. You’re given two times to touch — one twenty-second hug at first sight and one more before the last. But the Christmas tree is tinseled. A guard chews a microwaved cheeseburger from the vending machine and looks the other way.

His ponytail is graying. Their two chairs sandwich his like white toast on ham. Her ancient eyes memorize the silent features; his father’s are hidden behind one age-spotted hand. Who will be his bread when they are gone?

Our man is an orphan at twenty-two. His mother died in a fire last year, after her thirty-sixth birthday. He asks for a book on how to write cursive. I get out in twenty-thirty-two, he says. Abuela wants me out of Oakland. I'll need a signature of my own.

All Things South Asia Book Award

Just got back from a wonderful trip to D.C., where I accepted the 2016 South Asia Younger Readers Book Award for TIGER BOY. Here's my awkward (but grateful) speech.


Gauri Manglik of KITAABWORLD handled book sales brilliantly. If you haven't checked out their marvelous site that provides an easy way to choose books about South Asia, you're missing out.
What a delight to meet Mathangi Subramaniam, winner of the South Asia Book Award for Older readers for Dear Mrs. Naidu.  Watch for her adult novel coming soon. I can't wait.
The Program of Events. Delicious chaat and chai, too.
My beautiful glass engraved plaque.
Author visit with fourth-graders at Capital City Public Charter School.
A thousand thanks to Rachel Weiss of the University of Wisconsin, who serves with passion and dedication as the Award Coordinator, and to the rest of the members of the Selection Committee.