We recently received two ARCs about twelve-year-old girls whose moms are Indian and whose dads are Jewish, a perspective not often found in children’s books. Mira Levenson (Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari, Whitman, September 2013), a Brit, is “neither tall nor small, neither skinny nor ‘plumpy’…[with] long, dead-straight black hair, and dark brown eyes that my dad says sometimes turn black with emotion. My skin’s brown, but not dark enough to hide my blushes.” Her nana (father’s mother) is dying and has enlisted the family to help paint her coffin. She finds a new friend (maybe more?) in Rwandan refugee Jidé Jackson. The story is ultimately uplifting; however, there are moments of profound sadness throughout.
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (Amulet/Abrams, October 2013) is much breezier. Tara Feinstein is trying to decide whether or not to have a Bat Mitzvah. One of her main questions: “Was I about to become more Jewish, or less Indian?” She even gets into a shoving match (at Hebrew School, no less!) after a girl tells her she’s “not even Jewish” (not that it’s anyone’s business, but her mom converted, for goodness sake). The book is about identity but it’s also about tween friendships, crushes, teachers, eye-roll-worthy family moments, etc.
Have you read either book? What did you think of the authors’ very different approaches (and their characters’ very different voices)? Join the conversation about “multicultural” (a problematic term?) children’s books at Read Roger.