Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on April 19, 2022
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All Ukrainians are supposed to love borsch—but what if you hate the red stuff? A young girl despises Eastern Europe’s most beloved soup, and not even the grandmothers of Kiev can persuade her to change her mind. But when she immigrates to the United States, American food leaves her feeling empty. One day she discovers borsch recipes in an old suitcase. Maybe that disgusting beet soup deserves another chance…
Imaginatively illustrated with splashes of borsch-bright red, this book captures the complicated experience of rejecting and embracing one’s culture. A recipe and author’s note provide further ways to interact with the story. Witty and poignant, I Hate Borsch will encourage readers to ponder how history, heritage, and food can shape our identities.
Any immigrant will tell you that part of one’s cultural identity is found in food from the motherland. All Ukrainians are supposed to love borsch, but what if (gasp!) you don’t? I Hate Borsch! Is a somewhat autobiographical tale of a young Ukrainian girl who couldn’t stand the stuff, but after immigrating to the United States and becoming an adult, finds a longing to taste once more the food she never liked.
On the surface, I Hate Borsch! is a story about not liking a food as a kid, then growing up and finding out that you do like that food now. (Turns out you gotta cook the broccoli, Mom.) But dig a bit deeper, and it’s a story about finding one’s cultural identity as a minority, rejecting and embracing one’s culture, growing up to have a better appreciation of the past, and how food is so uniquely tied to cultural expression.
Yevgenia Nayberg combines her story of coming to like borsch (or borscht) with bold illustrations that really capture the main character and her feelings. This would be a great book for an elementary school culinary class. There’s even a borsch recipe at the end! With current world events and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine driving so many Ukrainians out of their homeland, this book could be used as a tool to teach kids (and adults) about their new refugee neighbors. There’s never a bad time to celebrate Ukrainian culture, but now is an especially appropriate time to reflect on the hardiness and strength of the Ukrainian people—just like a good bowl of borsch.