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Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas – Book Review
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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Suchitra Shenoy Packer

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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“Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas” – It was the title of the book that immediately made me take notice. After all, there aren’t too many books that have the words “Hanukkah” and “dosas” together in the same title. 

Note: Although I have tried to be objective, quite honestly, this is a more personal review. Keep reading to know why. 

You see, as the Editor of a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, and multifaith parenting magazine, I come across a decent number of diverse books. Yet, as a brown-skinned Indian woman married to a multiracial white man who strongly identifies with his Jewish side, I haven’t seen a single children’s book that speaks to my family. If there are, please enlighten me. 


 

Premise: A young family with a Hindu-Indian mother and a Jewish-White father are getting ready to celebrate Hanukkah. The story is narrated from the big brother’s point of view. He finds his sister’s somewhat obsessive interest in climbing everywhere a little annoying, but it really comes in handy toward the end of the story. In what appears to be a ritual (“The dosas sizzled in the coconut oil, and our whole house smelled like Hanukkah”), this family eats a popular South Indian food, dosas, on Hanukkah – depicting a blending of Indian and Jewish lives. This book is a perfectly blended interpretation of a HinJew life and one possible way to celebrate Hanukkah. 

What I liked: I really, really liked the story and illustrations and how they represent how a multicultural household and lifestyle may look. The older kid attends Hebrew School, they visit the local Indian store to get their Indian groceries, their home is decorated with cushion covers bearing Indian designs and has other ethnic touches, and the best thing of all, for me personally, the kids, a boy and a girl (just like my kids) are illustrated with a beautiful shade of beige-brown – just like my kids.

The story also includes the maternal grandmother shown wearing a sari at all times. I also liked that she was referred to as “Amma-Amma”, perhaps to represent the South Indian side of the mother’s family (although this is not stated explicitly, this assumption may be made given that they eat dosas, an essential part of South Indian cuisine). My kids would have called my mother “Mamama” so it is much closer to Amma-Amma than all the Dadijis and Nanijis (North Indian) typically seen in Indian children’s books or books that are about Indian children that include grandparents. Not only that, seeing the grandmother dressed as she was, my son was immediately reminded of his own Mamama who dressed exactly like this fictional grandma – in a sari with a red bindi (or kumkum dot) on her forehead. 

The deliciousness of the dosas, the fragrance of freshly prepared sambhar, the dreidel decorations on the window, the lighting of the menorah, the visiting Jewish cousins, the references to the Maccabees, the unique take on the dreidel song (the only song that would urge the “Queen” to get down from wherever she had climbed up), almost everything about this book speaks to how beautifully cultures can be blended to create a family’s own personalized holiday celebration. 


What gave me pause: The above notwithstanding, I was a little curious about why this family ate dosas for Hanukkah. The book does not state the parents’ different races or why they do what they do – readers are to make this interpretation on their own. While we are also an Indian-Jewish family, we eat Indian food on Diwali and Jewish food on Hanukkah. Since my husband grew up eating traditional Jewish food on Hanukkah, it makes sense for us to cook the same when celebrating a festival from his side. Likewise, on Diwali, we eat Indian food. Since foods are so intimately connected to cultures, even though I love that this fictional family does this and as previously mentioned, perfectly blends their two cultures, I know my family would not. 

In conclusion, this is a wonderful book for multiracial families who celebrate Hanukkah differently and in their own unique way. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and do full justice to the story. The naughty antics of Sadie, the “Queen” (read the book to know why she is the queen), the enlivening expressions on the characters’ faces throughout the story, the dramatic imagery evoked from the writing, all these things make this one of the best children’s books I have ever read. Bonus points for being a book where I could, for the first time, see my family represented in a story!

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.


 

If you are an author, illustrator, or publisher and would like us to review your book, send a copy to: 

the Parent Voice,
1750 Lundy Ave. #613176
San Jose, CA 95131
USA

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Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.

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