5 Questions for Mitali Perkins

Mitali Perkins has written many books for young readers, including Between Us and Abuela (Winner of the Américas Award), Forward Me Back To You (SLJ and Kirkus Best YA Books of the year), You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for a National Book Award), and Rickshaw Girl (adapted into a film by Sleeperwave Productions), all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. Mitali’s goal is to make readers laugh or cry, preferably both, as long as their hearts are widening. She was born in Kolkata, India, immigrated to the United States as a child with her family, and currently lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here’s a Promo Kit about Mitali and her work.

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Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, Forward Me Back to You? What made you want to tell this story?

Mitali Perkins: I’ve long wanted to write a novel about human trafficking that explores and upends some of the tropes I dislike in stories: the outside savior, typically with privilege, the magical negro without a backstory, the impossibility of a romance-free friendship between a straight young man and woman, the absence of brown male heroes, and so on. I also wanted to write a novel about hope and healing after trauma. Our sons are adopted internationally, and I wanted to honor their first mother, a woman I likely may never know.

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V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?

MP: I want to make them laugh or cry, preferably both.

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V: What was the hardest scene of Forward Me Back to You to write?

MP: Spoiler? Okay. It was when Ravi realized he was never going to be able to find his first mother. My heart broke for him.

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V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

MP: To sustain a life of writing, pursue excellence in the nuts and bolts of the career, but also keep your eye on how you might be able to serve others in the vocation.

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V: What are your writing must-haves?

MP: Salt and vinegar potato chips. A quiet room with a door I can close (a luxury I just received after seven years without one.) Periodic retreats in solitude. Long walks and showers.

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Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear Mitali read the first page of Forward Me Back to You! Find Mitali’s video under the IGTV tab.

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