24 March 2012

Burnt Bread and Chutney

I browsed into this one at the library (if you can browse an e-library) and I was pleasantly surprised by it.  It's a memoir of a Jewish woman who is both ethnically Indian and Eastern European, and American herself.  It's also the story of and tribute to the author's Indian grandmother, Nana-bai.

I've long been interested in Jewish minorities and how they navigate life in what is now a white Jewish world.  Israel's majority is not white although you'd never know it from see its leadership on the news.  There's much more written about Jewish culture and heritage both in and out of Israel from a white perspective so this book is worthwhile just for that (and more).  I'll look to see if more have been published like this- there wasn't too much in the 90s, but I haven't looked in the last ten years since switching my focus from the Middle East to Central Asia.

There was an interesting statement near the end of the book that made me think a little.  I've always thought it's ironic that the current country of Israel was allowed to be created by the West to create a homeland for the displaced Jews the West didn't want, but that most Jews who ended up in Israel weren't from the West, but from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But could those small, isolated Jewish communities have survived modernity without something like Israel?  This doesn't make me any more inclined to celebrate the creation of the state of Israel, but at least it's a possible positive result, even if those cultures are necessarily losing something of themselves in Israel..

There were a few things that weren't the best, of course.  I'd have liked more dates, especially regarding Nana-bai.  The only thing I could pin anything to was that the author was born around 1975.  Maybe there was a reason for not putting any dates in, but I felt like it was important information that was left out.  Also, I got tired of all the author's growing up, but I feel that way with most any memoir.  It's bad enough to live through being a teenager; why do so many people want to relive it in detail and make the rest of us read all about it?

But those were small complaints in a very interesting book.

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