Tuesday, October 06, 2015

#Diversiverse Challenge

I am participating in the #Diversiverse Challenge, in which you have to:
  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the first two weeks of October (October 4th-17th, 2015)

I wanted to include a Jewishly diverse angle, so I selected My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (Amulet/Abrams, 2013). The author and the protagonist have a mixture of European Jewish and East Indian heritage. The novel is aimed at 10-14 year olds.

I found this to be a delightful book. Twelve-year-old Tara Feinstein forges her identity as a Jew with strong pride in both the Jewish and Indian sides of her family. She struggles and grows as her relationships with best friends and boys change and develop, she expresses her individuality while respecting her family relationships, and she takes her Bat Mitzvah lessons seriously. Despite all the important learning going on, the tone remains light and upbeat, a fun read. Characters are well-developed and likable. Comparisons with Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume (1970) are inevitable, as a mixed-heritage girl contemplates her religious identity, but Tara seems to have a pleasing confidence that Margaret lacks. As a bonus, the paperback edition (2015) has recipes included at the back for Jewish traditional dishes with an Indian twist

For those who enjoyed the Indian/Jewish mix of Mira in the Present Tense, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, or the cultural tensions of the film Bend It Like Beckham, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah will be very welcome. For an interesting comparison of Basmati and Mira, check out Matzo Masala in The New York Times, Nov. 2013.

Check out other entries in the #Diversiverse Challenge here!


Buried In Print said...

Oh, recipes: what fun! That adds another delightful layer to a story.

Aarti said...

What a fun book! I know that there are a lot of Indian-Jewish couples out there, so glad there are books for all their kids :)