Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures-A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl
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Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures-A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  150 ratings  ·  29 reviews
“From the outside, no matter what the gradations of my mixed heritage, the shadow of Indian brown in my skin caused others to automatically perceive me as Hindu or Muslim. . . . Still, I trekked through life with the spirit of a Jew, fleshed out by the unique challenges and wonders of a combined brown and white tradition.”

In the politics of skin color, Carmit Delman is an...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 27th 2002 by One World/Ballantine (first published 2002)
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For the first few pages, I kept on thinking of "The Girl from Foreign" but this was quite different, a more personal and compelling tale of the Bene Israel. The difficulties fitting in were the same, and different, in the US and Israel: Jewish? Indian? American? ... but you don't look Jewish/Indian/American. In this memoir, Delman finds herself, and her identity, while reminding us that our past intimately influences, and constrains, our present and our future. That families can be so cruel shou...more
YM Magazine recommends this book! And I'm reading it for my thesis.

I was also compelled by the amazing description on the back:
"Bound by love for each other and for that newborn country, they hardly took notice of the interracial aspects of their union."

"...a remarkable synthesis of the universal and the exotic."

Also the writing is SO bad I found myself asking:

"How was this ever published? Did she go to Harvard or something? That's the only thing that could explain the publication of this hor...more
Carmit Delman tells her story of coming of age as an Indian (Bene Israel) Jewish girl, moving around and living in Ohio, Upstate New York and Israel, and never quite fitting in. Delman's memoir is also the story of her maternal grandmother who was born and raised in Bombay under less than fortunate circumstances. The family saga and the brief history of the Bene Israelis was fascinating, but I had some trouble with the narration and writing style. Nevertheless, the book was well worth the read.
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Sarah Sammis
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 descriptio...more
This started out really well and then kind of descended into a bit of nonsense. 'Oh look at me and my adolescent broodiness.' Yeah, that's just adolescence full stop.

But the first half is rich in smells and sights - the story of an Indian Jewish girl (half American Jewish, half Indian Jewish) and her lovely and close family life. The story alternates between her own tale and tales from her Nana-bai's early life. And while she's writing about her childhood or her Nana-bai's life, she held my...more
Susannah Skyer Gupta
If you push past the painfully self-conscious "look, I'm writing literature!" moments, this is an interesting biography/autobiography. Delman retells her own life story (thus far; she is young), as a Bene Israel descendant with roots in Israel, India and the US, interspersing it with that of her maternal grandmother, who faced much graver challenges in a far different time. It's difficult to say how much insight one gains into India's ancient Bene Israel Jews, as opposed to into this particular...more
I slogged through this book disappointed in what I read. I had high hopes of what I thought would be an interesting dialogue of a culturally rich life/upbringing. Instead I found a rather uninteresting story of growing up - doesn't much matter if you're Indian or Israeli or American or Jewish when your parents embarass you as a teenager. The portions that told the story of her elderly relative gave the reader insight into the Indian mindset but overall this is one book that does not reward the r...more
I enjoyed reading about a culture I had no idea existed but for some reason the book never grabbed hold of me.
I did not know much (or, basically, anything) about Indian Jews before this book, so this was very eye-opening for me.
I liked the parts with the diary of the author's grandfather. I didn't quite understand how all this could be fit in one single notebook, as the author claims, but even if it's partly written by the author herself, it was still really good.
I highly recommend this book to everyone who likes memoirs and is interested in Jewish history
There were parts of this book that I liked tremendously, and parts that were harder to get into. I loved the sections that dealt with Nana-bai and the old world, and the sections in which Delman delved into cultural difference. I was a bit less taken by some of the sections on teenage angst and rebellion. I also found Delman's writing style a little bit choppy at times. Overall, though, I did like it, and I think the interesting parts were worth the read.
There are some lovely turns of phrase in this memoir, which otherwise seems to largely miss the mark. The author's voice and her lived experiences too often are subsumed to larger ideas of post-colonialism, of gender politics, and of racial dynamics. The particularity of her lived experiences-- which are fascinating-- too often take the back seat. That said, she is clearly a writer of considerable talent and I wouldn't hesitate to read her future work.
Rachel G.
While this book has a totally fascinating subject - the life of an American girl of Jewish Indian descent - it's not told very well. Instead of piecing together anecdotes, there's a whole lot of sweeping overviews of telling. I was hoping for more stories, rather than Eat Pray Love style inner thoughts. I guess it reads more like a diary than a memoir, in that respect. But the story itself is very interesting, especially the parts about India.
Maura Sostack
Jan 11, 2014 Maura Sostack rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maura by: GJC Book Club selection
Great potential, ultimately disappoints. The chapters about the author's grandmother are beautifully written; the chapters about the author's 'coming of age' - not so much.
This was interesting in many ways--my second book, I think, on the Jewish community in India . . .I really wanted to like this, but the writing killed it, I think. It seemed poorly organized, and at times like the author was just trying too hard reaching for the metaphors and descriptions. I'm still a little confused---was the author's mother "Evie" or not?
Aug 15, 2007 Jill rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: A Lover of Subcultures
I loved this book, not because of amazing writing, but because it introduced me to a subculture I never even thought about, Jewish Indians. Apparently, Mumbai at one point had, if not a large population, then a rather influential one, of Jews. Talk about being the odd girl out-to be a Jew in India, and then to be an Indian girl among American Jews.
I find the history and culture of the Bene Israel (Indian Jewish community) fascinating. The book was beautifully written and, having grown up between two cultures, I can relate to many of the author’s own experiences. Really worth a read if you have an interest in memoirs and Indian or Pakistani Jews.

Beautifully written and explores an interesting cultural situation, but I just don't like memoirs, particularly memoirs by people under 30. Do something, live, experience, reflect before you write a meoir. Delman's memoir is mostly about her grandmother's life--who had lived, experienced, done etc.
history of Bene Israel Jews from India. family history includes emigrating to israel,USA. polygamy,domestic abuse. grdtr (author mix of Bene jew and american jew) finds grandmother's diary,tells her tale...struggle to find identity in America,with such a diverse hx.
I liked the idea of this book and reading, "An interesting view of an exotic cross-cultural childhood" on the back of the book made it seem really sexy, but I was disappointed by it. Overall the book was just not as well written as it could have been.
Jan 02, 2010 Joyce rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joyce by: TBR Book Club
If you actually want to learn about the Bene Israel read The Girl From Foreign by Sadia Shepard. Burnt Bread and Chutney gave no insight into this interesting group of Jews that most people don't know anything about.
I really enjoyed this. Although the book explores a truly unique cultural mix, I thought what made it good was the way it chronicles the universal search for identity and finding a place in society.
I really was disappointed in this book, it was much more of a personal memoir about trying to fit in and did not offer the insight into the Bene Israel community I was hoping would be shared.
Not really written (it jumps around too much) & probably wouldn't appeal to a wide audience base, but I really liked it because I am obsessed by the Indian Jews...Bene Israel.
I thought this book would be better than it was. I like memoirs, but this one just didn't hold my attention. I didn't even finish it.
The scattered approach could have worked if it didn't end up feeling so contradictory. The conclusion bothered me a great deal.

Personally interesting. Poignant about growing up in a family that is different from what is the conceived "norm" in the USA.
Julia Rojas
This book was ok. The story sounded interesting. The writing kind of ruined this story.
Jul 04, 2012 Janice marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pc-book-club
spring 2010
Meryl Paskow
Meryl Paskow is currently reading it
Sep 17, 2014
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