BURNT BREAD AND CHUTNEY: A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl

Carmit Delman, Author . Ballantine/One World $22.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-345-44593-3

This elegant memoir provides readers with glimpses of an unusual cross-cultural childhood. Delman was raised, in Cleveland, Ohio, New York and Israel, in a cacophonous culture clash: her father was a Jewish American of Eastern European descent; her mother was descended from India's ancient Bene Israel community and had spent her youth in Israel. The combination of bagels and lox and chutney doesn't offer an easily digested sense of identity. The outside world, too, is confused about Delman: she is viewed with suspicion by both American Jews and Indians. Most jarring to the author's coming of age is her mother's strictly patriarchal heritage. Her Indian relatives expect Delman to support all decisions made by the men. Girls are to be quiet and dainty and keep apart from the opposite sex until they are ready to wed. Even enrolled in a Jewish day school, Delman feels alienated from the mainstream culture. Nor does participation in synagogue life provide solace—the Delmans find too much concern for conformity and materialism. Moving to Israel will be the answer, Delman thinks. But there she sees many Indian Jews, along with Israel's other Asian and African immigrants, largely confined to isolated development towns with subpar housing and education. Woven into Delman's often painful musings and reflections on her identity is the poignant story of the aged Nana-bai, her closest Indian relative, who has survived poverty, bigamy and abuse with resilience and grace. Writing in a lively style with rich details, Delman's debut brims with intelligence and insight and should appeal not only to Jews and Indians but to anyone compelled by the mingling of cultural identities. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-345-44594-0
Open Ebook - 169 pages - 978-0-307-51606-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-31155-7
Prebound-Glued - 275 pages - 978-1-4177-3760-4
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