FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU is here!

My eleventh book makes it to the finish line, thanks to the wisdom, creativity, and collaboration of my editor Grace Kendall, my agent Laura Rennert, and the amazing team of support at Macmillan Books. Friends, I'm humbled by your belief in my work. Thanks, too, for the serendipity/grace of scheduling Forward Me Back to You's release on my beloved Daddy's birthday. I dedicate it to him with a kiss to eternity.

my girl and I toast on release day

Less Than Two Weeks Till Publication!

The marketing team at Macmillan sent some photos today as we're less than two weeks away from April 2, the publication date of Forward Me Back to You and the paperback release of You Bring the Distant Near. Also, that's my beloved Daddy's birthday, a lovely serendipity since I didn't pick the release date and I miss him every day. Anyway, the photos are gorgeous.



Common Core Teacher's Guide for FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU

The folks at Macmillan School and Library commissioned brilliant educator Kathleen Odean to create an educator's guide that lines up with Common Core curricula requirements, and here it is! Feel free to download (click below for .tiff files and then as .png files), share, and use.

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You're Invited! Book Launch Parties for FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU


I'm launching my newest novel FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU in three states, and you're invited to the parties.

(1) In the Boston area? Join us at Newtonville Books on Sunday, April 7th at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

(2) In the San Francisco Bay Area? Come to Orinda Books on Saturday, April 13th at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

(3) In the Seattle area? I'll be at Brick and Mortar Books in Redmond on Monday, April 15th at 6 o'clock in the evening.

Would love to see you there! 

Wait, Is That Me and My Work?

Just as that familiar mob inside my head begins their screech of discouragement about this “writing career you chose,” my dear friends at Andrea Brown Literary Agency sent me this celebration of my vocation. Thank you! And wow!


FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU Discussion Guide for Service Trips


Mitali and Company's Discussion Guide for Service Trips Across Borders of Power


Questions to accompany a group read of Forward Me Back To You by Mitali Perkins:
  1. PG asks Kat, Gracie, and Ravi to answer two questions about their service trip before they go. “I want to…” “I hope to …” Finish the sentences for yourself and seal in an envelope to read when you return.
  2. Why was it important for Ravi, Kat, and Gracie to study Bangla? Do you plan to learn any words or phrases in the language spoken by the people you are visiting? If so, how? If not, why not?
  3. Gracie, Kat, and Ravi follow the lead of the national/local people who welcome them for the summer. Ravi spends time on what he thinks will be boring office work and Gracie and Kat agree to take care of babies as their “act of service.” What will you be doing as your “act of service”? 
  4. Sometimes a good desire to serve and give can end up damaging local systems instead of supporting them. Did this happen with Kat, Ravi, and Gracie? Why or why not? Is your labor something that could be done instead by local people for income? If you are bringing stuff to donate, how does this affect local vendors and producers of similar food or wares? 
  5. Do Kat, Gracie, and Ravi serve in a way that they wouldn't be able to in Boston or Oakland? Is the work you are doing possible because the place you are going has fewer regulations than in your home community and/or weaker rule of law? Is your act of service in that community offered only by trained professionals in your own community? What would it be like for you if someone came and served your community or family in the same manner? What questions might you ask? How would you want to participate?
  6. Why is Sergeant Shen mistrustful of foreigners visiting his work? Why does Arjun think it’s important? Do you agree with Shen or Arjun?
  7. Kat and Ravi both hope to “save” the victims of human trafficking. What are their plans? Why don’t they work? How are people in the novel helped and by whom?
  8. What do you think about the “no cell phone” policy PG sets in place during the summer? What are the risks of posting on social media while serving overseas?
  9. Do you think the fact that Kat, Ravi, and Gracie aren’t white makes a difference during their time in India? Why or why not? Does the history of British colonialism play any role in how white people might be perceived in India? Does our perceived ancestry (correct or incorrect) matter in cross-cultural service?
Other questions:
  1. As a group, brainstorm a few lists. First, identify three human traits, behaviors, and emotions that are universal. Second, list three which might vary depending on culture and upbringing. Third, list three strengths of the host culture. Fourth, agree on at least three similarities between your culture and the host culture. Fifth, come up with at least three differences. How do those differences make you feel?
  2. Prepare a few questions that might help you discover someone’s story without being too intrusive about past trauma. Here are some suggestions: What is a favorite childhood memory? What holiday do you enjoy celebrating? Be prepared to share your stories around the same questions. Try to learn how to say a word or two in the host language.
  3. From your observations and reading, what are the top three socio-economic and historical/political challenges in this new culture/village/community? If someone were to ask you, what would you describe as the top three socio-economic and historical/political challenges of your own culture/village/community/?
Download and print these questions in a .PNG version:

FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU Cover Reveal!

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, too, can BRING THE DISTANT NEAR

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. 




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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