My Bas­mati Bat Mitzvah

Paula J. Freedman
  • Review
By – June 6, 2014

Talk about spunky! Paula J. Freedman’s debut nov­el, My Bas­mati Bar Mitz­vah, is a charm­ing com­ing of age book with just the right dash of ten­sion and romance. Twelve-year-old Tara Feinstein’s voice will charm you as she comes to grips with cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty, friend­ship, and chang­ing relationships. 

The sto­ry begins dur­ing the fall before her bat mitz­vah, just as Tara com­mits her­self offi­cial­ly to going through” with the rit­u­al. She’s gone to reli­gious school for only two years, and has a lot of ques­tions about what it means to be part Indi­an part Jew­ish. Right away, Tara finds her­self with a lot of con­cerns. First, of course, is her Torah por­tion and the plans lead­ing up to her bat mitz­vah. She’s also con­cerned with reg­u­lar things, like her best friend and pos­si­ble boyfriend, Ben‑o, as well as her oth­er best friend, Rebec­ca, who is sud­denly inter­est­ed in befriend­ing the obnox­ious and impul­sive, if not slight­ly stereo­typ­i­cal, Sheila Rosenberg.

What makes this nov­el sing is Tara’s voice. This girl is real. She is stub­born. She is loy­al. Even when the ten­sion is at its high­est, she is com­plete­ly lik­able and the read­er will cheer for her to get what she wants. The only issue that could make a read­er pause is that it appears that her stud­ies begin in the fall for a Decem­ber bat mitz­vah. This seems a bit rushed, and under the con­straints of the nov­el, slight­ly unre­al­is­tic. Clear­ly, Freed­man had lofti­er, more inclu­sive goals than the actu­al study­ing, but for those in the midst of the process, they might just scream foul!

That said, read­ers who love mul­ti-cul­tur­al sto­ries will love this book for its good humor, new romance, charm­ing tone, and sat­is­fy­ing con­clu­sion. They will enjoy watch­ing her cul­tures inter­sect. My Bas­mati Bat Mitz­vah doesn’t strive to be over­ly pro­found, but it com­plete­ly suc­ceeds as a fun and charm­ing com­ing-of-age story.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 – 14.

Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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