Thursday, April 10, 2008

Burnt Bread and Chutney

I feel rather split-brained about Burnt Bread and Chutney the memoir by Carmit Delman. Her book is both a biography (that of her maternal grandmother's life as a Bene Israel (Indian Jew) and a memoir of growing up poor in the United States and Israel. I enjoyed the bits about the grandmother but was bored by the rest of the book.

Carmit Delman tries to show how exotic her own life was growing up in the United States being not quite Indian-American and not quite Jewish-American but her descriptions of life here are banal and ordinary.

Her choice of subjects are universal: conflict between older and younger generations, blending of cultures between families and between country of birth and adopted country, the embarrassment of being poorer than friends, and so forth. Whenever the memoir seems to be stalling in one of these ever so ordinary passages, Delman would throw in a reminder that her life was fundamentally different because of her Indian ties and that by itself was not enough to make this memoir interesting or all that memorable.

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