My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman, 256 pages, Can be read in a few hours depending on your speed, Middle Grade
(FYI, making a Star of David out of rice is much harder than it sounds!)
“To be myself, on my own terms, and not have that be weird. To stand out and fit in at the same time.”~Tara, p. 15
This is now the second book about an Indian American Jewish teenager I’ve read this year, and this was a genre I didn’t know I needed. I’ve often thought there were a lot of similarities between Indian and Jewish cultures, so it’s been great to read stories about these blended families and catch all the sameness and differences.
If there’s one major similarity, it’s our love of big events. In this case, it’s a Bat Mitzvah. The driving force of the plot is Tara preparing for hers. But, as a soon-to-be teenager trying to mesh two different backgrounds, Tara isn’t so sure the Bat Mitzvah is for her. She struggles to fit both of her worlds together and create an identity that is her own. But how do you do that when you don’t have much say in what happens next?
A Bat Mitzvah is the perfect setting for a coming-of-age story. It also allows Freeman to explore topics like anti-Semitism, questions of inclusion, friendship, and first loves. I also love that Tara is into robotics. Some might call it clichéd, but we need to see more girls in books who are into STEM, so I’m all for it.
This book was absolutely delightful. The middle school shenanigans were hilarious and it’s nice to see not much has changed since I was there! I also liked that Freedman used Tara’s mom to show that even adults struggle to make their various identities fit together. So much of this story was relatable, even if you aren’t Indian or Jewish or Both.
This was the perfect book for both Asian American and Jewish American Heritage Month. And I hope we see more books about Indian Jewish characters.