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
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
"The latest spunky heroine of South AsianJewish 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."
"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 pubertyher 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 strengthsquestioning spirit, empathy and strong ethical compassis her mixed heritage."
The Jewish Daily Forward
"This story will have resonance for many children of many faiths at the cusp of religious adulthood."
"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
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.)
Tara is a fun, likeable character and readers will relate to her struggles, strength, vulnerability, and honesty.
"...this story will have resonance for many children of many faiths at the cusp of religious adulthood."
"MY BASMATI BAT MITZVAH is a charming and poignant coming of age story and highly recommended."
"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."
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)