In recent months there has been a lot of discussion about diversity within children’s literature (more specifically the lack of diversity within Children’s literature), with many reports promoting and listing culturally dives books. Paula J Freedman’s Middle Grade book ‘My Basmati Bat Mitzvah’ should definitely be added to any list of quality culturally diverse books.
‘My Basmati Bat Mitzvah’ is a delightful read, giving a glimpse into different cultures and the difficulties of belonging to more than one culture and religion. It centres on the life of twelve year old Tara who is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. Her parents are both Jewish, her father from birth, where as her mother (who is an Indian immigrant to the USA) converted from Hinduism.
The book reads like a modern Judy Bloom giving you an authentic feeling insight into American childhood, expertly bringing the worries and anxieties of a girl struggling to come to terms with her beliefs as the date for Bat Mitzvah approaches. Tara faces all the usual tweenie/teenage problems; friendships, boys and all in addition to the more complex issue of God. Tara is overwhelmed by questions and doubts; does she believe? Does taking her Jewish Bat Mitzvah mean she is dishonouring her Hindu heritage? Is there a way to embrace both parts of her heritage and faiths?
As Tara tries to figure out the answers and navigates through the minefield of tweenie/teen dramas she endeavours to assert her individuality and gets locked in a battle with her mother as well as damaging the invaluable sari heirloom.
Paula, has created rich and beautifully descriptive window into two cultures plus exploring the difficulties of being mixed faith and ethnicity. Tara is an empathetic absorbing character that clearly shows that teenagers are alike no matter their cultural heritage. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is fun and delightful read and is primarily a heart-warming tale.