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My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Standalone. Abrams/Amulet Books (Oct. 2013) NetGalley
During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for "star") Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o--who might also be her boyfriend--and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.  

 

Tara is a Jewish-Indian-American girl who is preparing for her bat mitzvah. On her journey to her celebration she tries to find balance with her Jewish and Indian roots. When she's trying not to let her Indian heritage fall behind, she's facing a whole bunch of mishaps and changes surfacing in her life like how her best friend, Ben-o, is all of a sudden acting nervous around her and how her other best friend, Rebecca, is moving away from her and towards being friends with know-it-all Sheila. On top of all that Tara faces the tough question on whether she really believes in God or not. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is a coming of age story that has great elements of culture, family, friends, and faith.

Tara acts like a typical 12 year old. She makes mistakes and can act rashly. She hasn't really paid attention to what's going on with her friends so she may seem selfish at points but really she's acting like a regular kid. She's tough and doesn't like it when she's told she's not really Jewish. She can get herself into quite some trouble when she acts on her emotions. I like that this is a coming of age story where the main character already can stand up for herself. She's growing in a less pronounced way but she's still growing.  I love that she wants to make sure that both her cultures remain important in her life. 

I really liked that Freedman brought up someone accusing her of not being Jewish. I've had a similar thing happen to me when someone said I wasn't really Hispanic.  That really hurt and I could understand how Tara was feeling. I love that I was able to relate to Tara's story in that way. I didn't really know that is something people just say so it was kind of comforting in a way. I also really enjoyed the talk of food. So many different words to say so many delicious foods! Food is a very important aspect to a person's culture so I really liked that it was incorporated so much in the story.

The only thing that slightly bugged me was the romance. It was very awkward which you would expect at their age but I never really understood why it was there. It didn't really bring anything to the story for me. I wish there was more of Rabbi Aron too. I liked the whole mentor thing going on with him and Tara. He helped her through questions and doubts she was having throughout the story. I loved when he told her "Find comfort in your doubts... Only the weak are absolutely sure of everything." I feel like that's something a lot of kids should hear especially when they get to be at that age where everything seems to be changing -when you doubt everything. This was a great story coming of age story that delved deep into a multicultural girl's life. 

Comments

  1. I will probably check that out. I don't think there are many books that deal with issues that girls from a different racial background face

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    1. Even with middle grade books that are usually more conscious of different perspectives it's rare to see a book like this.

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  2. This sounds like a book that a lot of kids will be able to connect to because of the coming of age story. I have recently heard of this story and I have added it to my list. Tara sounds like a strong main character and I like that she stands up for herself. I really enjoyed your review. :)

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    1. Tara IS a very strong character and stands up for herself and her family which I enjoyed immensely. She's a great character to introduce or reintroduce to kids to learn about different cultures.

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