Harry N. Abrams, 2013. 978-1419708060
Synopsis: 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. – from Amazon.com
Why I picked it up: I want to expand my multicultural knowledge base and I have a special place in my reading list for stories about finding yourself.
Why I finished it: Tara is a charismatic narrator with a wacky family and caring friends that despite misunderstandings will always have her back. And like any young teen, she’s trying to find a happy medium between what she wants and what her parents want…and what side of her family she most identifies with – her Jewish side of her Indian side. Tara has the unique problem of being in a culturally diverse family and it’s clearly having an effect on her religious beliefs and on her relationships with her friends. She doesn’t want to have to give up her identity as a Indian-American Jew to be just ‘Jewish’ or just ‘Indian-American’. Freedman has captured both the confusion and the determination of a young girl to prove that she is her own person while navigating the minefield of personal relationships. It reminds the reader about the confusion of first loves, the strength of true friendship, and the often overlooked support that comes from family. The novel is a charming coming-of-age story that proves that everyone is unique and that we can shape ourselves in ways we never thought were possible.
Other related materials: You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! by Fiona Rosenbloom; We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah! by Fiona Rosenbloom; The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Raleigh Baskin; The JGirl’s Guide: The Young Jewish Woman’s Handbook for Coming of Age by Penina Adelman, Ali Feldman, and Shulamit Reinharz; The JGuy’s Guide: The GPS for Jewish Teen Guys by Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler, Shulamit Reinharz, Liz Suneby, and Diane Heiman; Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch; Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch; The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky; A Time of Angels by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Michelle Barnes; The Path of Names by Ari Goelman; My Family For The War by Anne C. Voorhoeve; Looking for Me…In This Great Big Family by Betsy C. Rosenthal; Stories for Children by Isaac Bashevis Singer; With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah adapted by Amy Erlich, illustrated by Daniel Nevins; The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales by Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, illustrated by Amanda Hall, narrated by Debra Messing; Letters from Rivka by Karen Hesse; All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor; More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor; Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth