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My Basmati Bat Mitzvah
     

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

3.5 2
by Paula J. Freedman
 

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  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

Overview


  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 the 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.
With the cross-cultural charm of Bend It Like Beckham, this delightful debut novel is a classic coming-of-age story and young romance with universal appeal.
 
Praise for My Basmati Bat Mitzvah
"In my opinion, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah shows that everyone is different in their own way and some get the advantage of being culturally diverse. I rate the book 5 stars!"
—Shivani Desai, age 13

STARRED REVIEW
"The latest spunky heroine of South Asian–Jewish heritage to grace middle-grade fiction, Tara Feinstein, 12, charms readers from the get-go in this strong, funny debut."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Tara’s inquisitiveness, openness, and determination to chart her own path stand out in this warm story of family, faith and the ways people are unique yet intertwined."
Publishers Weekly
 
"With a conversational and authentic tween voice, Tara invites readers into her world as she explores the larger issues of faith, compassion, and tradition while confronting the awkwardness that is puberty—her questions regarding God are poignant and relatable while her opinions on training bras are simply spot-on..."
The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books

"Authors often mention but then shrink from exploring in depth their characters’ mixed religious heritage; it’s a sensitive subject that demands close scrutiny. Freedman bucks that trend, avoiding didacticism by portraying broader issues through Tara’s personality and unique circumstances. As Tara learns in this skillful exploration, an important source of her special strengths—questioning spirit, empathy and strong ethical compass—is her mixed heritage."
The Jewish Daily Forward

"This story will have resonance for many children of many faiths at the cusp of religious adulthood."
Booklist

"As she makes her way through these challenges, she learns a great deal about friendship, family, and heritage. Freedman handles the ethnic and religious diversity of Tara’s family and friends with a light touch, but doesn’t shrink from exploring some of the complexities of a dual heritage."
School Library Journal

 "This book’s well-drawn characters bring two colorful cultures to vibrant life. The contemporary urban setting, cast with touches of humor and romance, frame mature ideas of peer and self-acceptance in a familiar, lighthearted world. Middle grade girls will readily befriend Tara and pick up new cultural understanding."
Library Media Connection

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
Freedman’s debut packs in questions about cultural and religious identity, mother/daughter conflicts, first crushes, middle-school dilemmas, and friend crises. At times, the mix can be overwhelming, but the author combines the many plot elements into a thought-provoking narrative. Seventh-grader Tara Feinstein’s bat mitzvah is fast approaching, and she is questioning her belief in God, as well as how the Jewish and Indian aspects of her heritage intersect. Tara’s Indian-American mother, a convert to Judaism, has strong feelings about how Tara should approach the bat mitzvah, reflecting her own need to fit in, but Tara wants to make choices for herself and incorporate Indian elements into the celebration. Meanwhile, things have gotten awkward with Tara’s best friend Ben-o, who seems to want to be more than friends; an irritating classmate, Ryan, is crushing on her, too; and Tara’s other best friend, Rebecca, is growing closer to “major know-it-all” Sheila. Tara’s inquisitiveness, openness, and determination to chart her own path stand out in this warm story of family, faith and the ways people are unique yet intertwined. Ages 10–14. Agent: Judith Riven Literary Agent. (Oct.)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A snapshot of modern adolescence, this deserves a spot next to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret … and Naylor's Alice series in the coming-of-age canon for girls."
KidsReads
"MY BASMATI BAT MITZVAH is a charming and poignant coming of age story and highly recommended."
Booklist
"...this story will have resonance for many children of many faiths at the cusp of religious adulthood."
Reading Today Online
“Tara is a fun, likeable character and readers will relate to her struggles, strength, vulnerability, and honesty.”
VOYA - Deena Viviani
Jewish-Indian-American Tara Feinstein loves every part of her heritage, and with the school robotics club and her bat mitzvah in her immediate future, seventh grade promises to be a great year. Then, the drama begins. Between Hebrew school with snooty Sheila and playing Bollywood film stars with her best friend Rebecca, Tara suddenly feels like she must choose sides and friends. Tara's Indian-Jewish mother does not want her to wear a sari to her bat mitzvah; Rebecca starts hanging out with Sheila; and Tara's friend Ben-o is jealous of the most annoying guy in their class. When Tara accidentally burns a hole in her nani's sari and asks her rabbi tough questions about her bat mitzvah parashah, she sees that, with some attention and compromise, she can enjoy the best that everyone brings to her world. Tara is an independent main character for whom tween and teen girls will root. She is not interested in dating and yet boys like her, which may frustrate those who can—or cannot—relate to that part of the middle school experience. While some readers may find the emphasis on religions and cultural backgrounds too quiet a topic to enjoy, fans of Lauren Myracle's Flower Power series will connect with this contemporary story of changing friendships and self-identity. This novel is a great addition to collections that need more contemporary realistic stories and/or culturally diverse casts of characters. Reviewer: Deena Viviani
VOYA - Maia Raynor
During the fall preceding her bat mitzvah, Jewish-Indian-American Tara Feinstein's usually delicious mix of cultures suddenly feels confusing. Tara wonders if she can honor both her Indian and Jewish heritage. This charming debut has a friendly vibe that will keep readers turning the pages. Young teens who enjoy multicultural realistic fiction will find themselves adoring this novel. Reviewer: Maia Raynor, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Tara has an unusual background for a Bat Mitzvah girl: she is both Indian and Jewish, a combination of ethnicities that occasionally collide as Tara prepares for her coming-of-age ceremony. In addition to dealing with her personal crisis in spirituality, she is also dealing with an early adolescent romance that she is not quite ready for, and learning that "Little Miss Perfect," Sheila Rosenberg, is a deeply flawed personality with a couple of dangerous secrets. Added to her other problems, Tara accidentally destroys a beautiful Indian garment, handed down through her mother's family, and it takes her wise Jewish grandmother to save the day, and the dress, in a creative and meaningful way. What could be a fairly typical teenage book has some nice layers of interest in it, in addition to explaining both Jewish and Indian customs and holidays in a painless fashion. The only strange portion of the book is Tara's d'var Torah (speech at her ceremony) which is written in first person without a real introduction that makes it an awkward addition to the text. However, children of mixed heritage, kids preparing for their own B'nai Mitzvot, and early teens in general will find much to enjoy in this book and, in light of recent media attention to over-the-top celebrations of B'nai Mitzvot, it is nice to have a book that treats the ceremony with respect, even if the matzah ball soup is sprinkled with garam masala. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-08-15
The latest spunky heroine of South Asian–Jewish heritage to grace middle-grade fiction, Tara Feinstein, 12, charms readers from the get-go in this strong, funny debut. Cheerful, sociable and a New Yorker through and through, Tara's blessed with two best friends: Ben-o, a gentile, and Rebecca, who's Jewish. Both girls attend Hebrew School. As boys prepare for their bar mitzvahs and girls for bat mitzvahs, Tara struggles with doubts (does she believe in God?) and fears devaluing her beloved Indian heritage. When Sheila Rosenberg tells Tara she's not a real Jew because her mother (an Indian-American convert to Judaism) wasn't born a Jew, Tara hits back--literally. Tara looks forward to working with Ben-o in Robotics Club for seventh grade. Instead, she's stuck with ADD-challenged Ryan Berger, whose interest is Tara, not robotics, and her comfortable relationship with Ben-o is threatened now that he seems to want to take it to the level of romance. Her simmering feud with Sheila complicates life further. Authors often mention but then shrink from exploring in depth their characters' mixed religious heritage; it's a sensitive subject that demands close scrutiny. Freedman bucks that trend, avoiding didacticism by portraying broader issues through Tara's personality and unique circumstances. As Tara learns in this skillful exploration, an important source of her special strengths--questioning spirit, empathy and strong ethical compass--is her mixed heritage. (Hindi-Yiddish glossary) (Fiction. 10-14)
School Library Journal
12/01/2013
Gr 4–7—A sweet, lighthearted story of friendship with a touch of romance. Tara Bernstein, 12, is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah but, as she ponders her mixed Hindu and Jewish heritage (her Indian mother converted to Judaism), she wonders whether having a Bat Mitzvah is the right thing for her. In the meantime she is dealing with the ups and downs of her best (boy) friend, Ben-O, acting strangely toward her; her best (girl) friend becoming best friends with someone she dislikes; and a boy she despises having a crush on her. Added to all this angst is her fear of revealing that she accidentally burned a hole in a sari that is a family heirloom she was hoping to wear for her Bat Mitzvah. She is also reluctant to acknowledge that she and her friends are changing. As she makes her way through these challenges, she learns a great deal about friendship, family, and heritage. Freedman handles the ethnic and religious diversity of Tara's family and friends with a light touch, but doesn't shrink from exploring some of the complexities of a dual heritage. This will take its place beside Jenny Han's Shug (S & S, 2006): that is, if you can keep it on the shelves.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781419708060
Publisher:
Amulet Books
Publication date:
10/01/2013
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,354,411
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author


Paula J. Freedman has another career in digital media, making websites for a well-known children’s publisher, a TV network, and assorted others. She’s pretty much the same person she was in middle school, only nicer and with less acne. She lives with her husband and two parrots in New York City.

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My Basmati Bat Mitzvah 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book if you are jewish then READ THIS BOOK NOW!!!!!
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (2013) This is one of those books that can skew as either middle grade or a younger YA. Either works and either is appropriate. Tara, our narrator, is a lot of fun with a breezy voice that sounds authentic and true without being bogged down in vernacular or otherwise "talking down" to the reader. I also loved that Tara had supportive, understanding, present parents as well as friends. Although the story deals with Tara understanding the two sides of her heritage she is largely comfortable in her own skin. Which is huge. There is just so much to like here from the light, fun story to the cover model who looks just like you'd expect Tara to look. This is a story about acceptance and identity but also about more than that. Recommended. *This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*