My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman: Not To be Underestimated

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.

There are a lot of books that are coming out right now that are about World War II or life as a Jewish person during that war, or both. This just happens to work extremely well for me considering the fact that I’m studying world religions right now. With all the new books and all the old books in both children’s and YA novels, it’s just becoming harder and harder to figure out which one is my favorite.

But MY BASMATI BAT MITZVAH is definitely not to underestimated in this sea of stories and words. It’s definitely more of a girl book than a guy book though. Tara’s voice is very fun, clever and realistic for that age. I really liked her character, even though she was a little oblivious at times. Ben-o was awesome as well. I loved the ending to this story and I think it really taught me a lot about all of the different cultures Tara had a place in and I was really impressed by this story and how much you learn simply from reading it.

I thought that the glossary in the back was great too, but what I really appreciated–even more so than the Hindi/Hebrew/Yiddish/English (I’m not even kidding) Vocab guide, was the fact that for most of the book–you didn’t need to flip back to the glossary to understand the terms that everyone was using or saying. All the while without cutting back on using those terms altogether.

All in all, an impressive story. I think it will be really great for middle-grade girls looking for a real-time story to teach them about what Judaism is like. I admit it’s not the most informative story on Judaism I’ve ever read, but I appreciated learning about the lifestyle and the little things that make religion not just religion, but a way of life. Will still be searching for the boy version of this… 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 256

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