Burnt Bread and Chutney
is the story of Carmit Delman’s experiences growing up as an
outsider in a Jewish-Indian home in the American midwest and Israel. The
child of an Indian Jewish mother, part of Bene Israel, and a father born
in the U.S. of Eastern Europe parents, Delman seeks out her past to find
where she fits in.
Delman’s writing demonstrates her respect for the past and her intrigue for
the life her maternal family left behind when they emigrated from India.
Delman weaves a story about life in India through her memories of her Nana-bai
and simultaneously tells her own story of growing up — her clothes,
her foods, and even the lingering smell of the spices that are ever present
in and Indian home — all made her an outsider.
A striking aspect of the book is the way in which Delman writes about her
parents’s determination to create a strong, well-rooted family in Israel
as well as in Ohio. Delman manages to describe the pace and goals of her
family life, without being overly judgmental it. Her tone leads the reader
to believe that while she may
not have made the same decisions had she been the
parent, she understands the motivation behind the decisions and respects
her parents for giving their children the best that they could.
@The Source Israel had a chance to interview Carmit Delman, below is a copy
of the interview:
Q: You write that you were conscious of being “different” from an early
age. It appears to have been a motivating factor in your self-image. Were
your siblings as focused on the aspects of your family life and heritage
that differentiated you from the communities in which you were raised? Were
your parents aware of how you felt? Did this impact your family life?
A: “That consciousness–like this book–is really a reflection of my individual
personality and quirks. If my parents or siblings sat down and wrote their
own stories, those would be very different books, demonstrating entirely
different perspectives on how we fit into the world. I cannot speak for them.
But I do think that they were often aware that I myself sometimes struggled
while growing up, and they were, naturally, kind and patient with me.”
Q: Was writing the book cathartic? How so?
A: “The book was cathartic in that, as a writer, I have many stories to
tell. But in order to tap into them, I first needed to get through this one,
because it had been sitting at the forefront of my imagination all along.
It was also a wonderful opportunity at this young age to
look at the lines of my life and to have to think about them.”
Q: What is your overall message to readers?
A: “I think the overall message here is not particularly Indian or Jewish.
Some may try to read it as an exotic story, but that is not the intention
at all. Rather it is a universal story of growing up and loving your family
and making peace.”
Q: Did writing the book help you to understand your parents’ decisions?
A: “Writing this book did allow me to understand my parents’ decisions –
so that I see the frictions described in my youth with much more sense and
comprehension. This was also probably a product of simply growing up.”
Q: What are your interests? What do you do in your spare time?
A: “In my spare time, I love to travel. In fact, I just came back from a
trip through some of the southern states here in America, promoting my book.
I like to dance and run, and to bake and hike. I love spending time with
Q: Do you visit Israel?
A: “As I have been quite busy with work, I haven’t visited Israel in a handful
of years, but before that I would go back every year or two. And I’m hoping
to come again very soon.”
Q: Are you working on another book?
A: “I am currently working on a novel. It is set about
two thousand years ago in ancient Israel, and requires a lot of intricate
but very interesting research. I’m enjoying the process a great deal.”
Interview and review by Michele Kaplan-Green