Friday, September 13, 2013

ARC Review: My Basmati Bar Mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman
4/5 stars
Amulet Books, 2013
246 pages
MG Contemporary
Scheduled to release October 1

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What a cute book was basically my thought when stumbling upon this book as well as upon finishing. It is technically in the middle-grade category focusing on a 12-year old preparing for her bat mitzvah and will probably work best for those in that age range as us older readers will likely have already had exposure to the cultural and spiritual issues it explores. Still it was a fun and very quick read.

Tara Feinstein has a great mixed heritage. Her father's family are Jews firmly rooted in New York; her mother's family hails from India, bestowing on Tara a Hindu cultural background. Much of this book focuses on Tara navigating her feelings and the expectations of others around about this mixture while also looking at best friend travails and a little bit of time is spent on boys. Unfortunately I tended to find those moments extraneous especially the part that plays out as a bit of a love triangle. The family time and Tara's exploration of her heritage were far more interesting to me.

Yep my favorite moments were definitely Tara's questioning as she readies for her bat mitzvah-we read several conversations between her and a rabbi who encourages her curiosity and doesn't try to spoon feed her answers. Other well-done moments were Tara's fears that she might erase one part of herself. If she goes through with her bat mitzvah, does that mean she's turning her back on her beloved Hindu grandparents? And if her mother converted to Judaism, is Tara also Jewish or does her mother have to have been born a Jew? These and other questions were sensitively handled.

But this book also seemed a little overstuffed. There is a lot of drama among friends with one girl in particular having a lot of issues that were only touched upon. Also one of Tara's passions is Robotics Club, a plotline which begins promisingly but then seems to taper off. I wish a bit more time had been spent on it just to further develop the relationships in the book.

Overall: A very cute read, especially great for its target audience. I suspect older readers will find much of the content very familiar especially if they've made it a point to seek out novels about Judaism and/or Hinduism and/or Indian history and culture. Still that is no reason not to buy/read this one and to be pleased with its accurate cover!

Other Opinions:
Meloframa 
Tea and Writing...
The Reading Nook Reviews
The Streetlight Reader

10 comments:

  1. So cool! We love seeing literature about people of mixed heritage. Will have to check this one out.

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    1. Isn't the concept for this one so great? More, please!

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  2. Sounds cute but sorry it seemed overstressed

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    1. Yeah, just a bit. I still really enjoyed this one though and I hope for more along these cultural lines.

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  3. This does look like a cute book and I like that it tackles beliefs and cultural identity in an MG novel. It is too bad that the author felt the need to add a love triangle though!

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    1. It was so not well-done! I'm not universally opposed to love triangles but I want them to have a bit more meaning and purpose than this one appeared to have.

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  4. I picked this one up at BEA because I loved the whole multicultural aspect, but haven't had a chance to read it. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. I hope you give it a shot-it's a quick little read with a lot of heart and humor.

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  5. Sounds like a cute one for sure- I like that it focuses on the issues of family, religion, etc. in a nice, accurate fashion.

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    1. I loved the grounded realism of it too-that's probably what I take away most.

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