The best books about bar and bat mitzvah

Many authors have picked their favorite books about bar and bat mitzvah and why they recommend each book.

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My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

By Paula J. Freedman,

Book cover of My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Just the title alone makes me excited because if I had a Bat Mitzvah (I didn’t), this is what I might have wanted to call it! It’s a heartfelt and funny middle-grade novel about a girl named Tara Feinstein with a white Jewish father and an Indian American mother who is preparing for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I like the way the themes of intersectionality are layered with classic middle-school concerns--friends, crushes, parental pressure, and how she figures out who she is in the midst of so many things changing all at once. The questions Tara is asking, how to be part of both sides of her family and still stay true to who she is, deeply resonated with me, but I think many middle-schoolers regardless of their background would connect in different ways. Part of the value of the book is that it is so widely relatable and yet…

Who am I?

In 1968, my white Jewish American mother married my Indian American Hindu father. I grew up in Connecticut and often felt othered in my mostly white Christian community. I also felt different than many of my extended family members, feeling not quite Jewish or Indian “enough.” These issues and questions I had and still have about my identity have fueled my writing ever since. I write about characters navigating multiple identities asking questions about racism, prejudice, and xenophobia often for the first time. The books on this list are books I wished I could have had around to keep me company during my youth. 

I wrote...

How to Find What You're Not Looking for

By Veera Hiranandani,

Book cover of How to Find What You're Not Looking for

What is my book about?

New historical fiction from a Newbery Honor-winning author about how middle schooler Ariel Goldberg's life changes when her big sister elopes following the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, and she's forced to grapple with both her family's prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences, as she defines her own beliefs.

Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg's life feels like the moment after the final guest leaves the party. Her family's Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel's only constant, she's left to hone something that will be with her always–her own voice.

The Diary of Laura's Twin

By Kathy Kacer,

Book cover of The Diary of Laura's Twin

This story effectively unites the present with the past. Two girls anticipate their Bat Mitzvah in very different circumstances. Laura learns to appreciate the freedoms she has to make her own choices through the past life of a girl the same age as her but facing severe limitations. It is a thought-provoking book for young teens.

Who am I?

I am a child of Holocaust survivors. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly appreciated the horrendous circumstances that they lived through. But even more than their plight and will to survive, I was impressed with the heroism of the people willing to sacrifice their lives in order to help others. It is their story, above all else that I want to tell in my books.

I wrote...

Ivan's Choice

By Kathy Clark,

Book cover of Ivan's Choice

What is my book about?

“I’m not Hendrik,” he said. “I am Jakob. Jakob Kohn. And I am a Jew!” Ivan and Hendrik have been best friends for years. Then in the fall of 1944, when they are both 13, Hendrik makes an astounding revelation which forces Ivan to make some very difficult choices - choices that will impact both of their lives, and the lives of their families forever. Ivan must now maneuver through the intricacies of life in Nazi - occupied Hungary and within his own family without giving away his secret allegiance.

Ivan’s Choice is a companion book to The Choice, giving Ivan’s side of the story. It is a story of courage and the inner conflict that many young people confront when establishing the values they want to live by. Ivan's Choice is a novel inspired by real events.