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Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots Paperback – Oct 2 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439187010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439187012
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A remarkable tale."--"Kirkus Reviews"

One of "O" magazine's "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"

"Unorthodox is a fascinating book . . . Feldman's voice resonates throughout."--"The Jewish Daily Forward"

"Deborah Feldman was raised in an insular, oppressive world where she was taught that, as a woman, she wasn't capable of independent thought. But she found the pluck and determination needed to make the break from that world and has written a brave, riveting account of her journey. "Unorthodox "is harrowing, yet triumphant."--Jeannette Walls, #1 bestselling author of "The Glass Castle" and "Half Broke Horses"

"Feldman gives us special insight into a closed and repressive world. . . . Her memoir is fresh and tart and utterly absorbing."--"Library Journal"

"An unprecedented view into a Hasidic community that few outsiders ever experience. . . . "Unorthodox" reminds us that there are religious communities in the United States that restrict young women to marriage and motherhood. These women are expected to be obedient to their community and religion, without question or complaint, no matter the price."--"Minneapolis Star-Tribune"

"[Feldman's] no-holds-barred memoir bookstores on February 14th. And it's not exactly a Valentine to the insular world of shtreimels, sheitels and shtiebels. Instead, ["Unorthodox"] describes an oppressive community in which secular education is minimal, outsiders are feared and disdained, English-language books are forbidden, mental illness is left untreated, abuse and other crimes go unreported . . . a surprisingly moving, well-written and vivid coming-of-age tale."--"The Jewish Week"

"[Feldman's] matter-of-fact style masks some penetrating insights.""--The New York Times"

"Nicely written . . . [An] engaging and at times gripping insight into Brooklyn's Hasidic community."--"Publishers Weekly"

""Unorthodoz" is painfully good. . . .Unlike so many other authors who have left Orthodoxy and written about it, [Feldman's] heart is not hardened by hatred, and her spirit is wounded but intact. . . . She is a sensitive and talented writer."

"Denied every kind of nourishment except the doughy, shimmering plates of food obsessively produced by her Holocaust-survivor grandmother . . . books nourish [Feldman's] spirit and put in her hands the liberatory power of storytelling. As she becomes a reader and then a writer, Feldman reinvents herself as a human being."--"Newsday" (New York)

"Compulsively readable, "Unorthodox" relates a unique coming-of-age story that manages to speak personally to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in her own life. Feldman bravely lays her soul bare, unflinchingly sharing intimate thoughts and ideas unthinkable within the deeply religious existence of the Satmars. . . . Teens will devour this candid, detailed memoir of an insular way of life so unlike that of the surrounding society.""--School Library Journal"

"Eloquent, appealing, and just emotional enough . . . No doubt girls all over Brooklyn are buying this book, hiding it under their mattresses, reading it after lights out--and contemplating, perhaps for the first time, their own escape."

"Riveting . . . extraordinary.""--Marie Claire"

"Deborah Feldman has stripped the cloak off the insular Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, offering outsiders a rare glimpse into the ultraconservative world in which she was raised."--"Globe and Mail "(Toronto)

"[Deborah Feldman's] is an extraordinary story of struggle and dream. . . . Both her escape and her decision to tell her story are magnificent acts of courage."--Anouk Markovits, author of "I Am Forbidden"

"Imagine Frank McCourt as a Jewish virgin, and you've got "Unorthodox" in a nutshell . . . a sensitive and memorable coming-of-age story.""--""Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"

About the Author

Deborah Feldman was raised in the Satmar Hasidic community in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. She attends Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City with her son.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did a fair amount of reading on Judaism and different Jewish cultures, history and practices. I sifted through literature trying to understand what does it mean to be Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrachi, Maghrebi, Haredi or Beta Israel Jew. However, when it comes to the daily life of Haredi or Hasidic Jewish communities, literature is almost silent. Yes, there is some light shed on the general practices of Ultra-orthodox sects but beyond that, nothing much. My curiosity towards ultra-conservative jewish sects is not tainted with judgement. I just wanted to learn about their culture. Who am I to judge anybody anyway? Ms. Feldman paints a vivid picture of what is it like to be a girl in a Yiddish-speaking Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn. She brilliantly describes the preparing for and rituals of the sabbath, Yum Kippur and numerous other occasions the Hasidim celebrate zealously. Their lives are dedicated to studying the Torah and Talmud from an early age. The little things that we usually overlook like how to be modest, talk, behave, read, watch, preparing meals, keeping kosher, going to yeshivas, marriage arrangements and many other things from the Hasidim perspective. Ms. Feldman got a lot of criticism from Jews and non-Jews such as Shmarya Rosenberg about the content of the book. You can read both points of view and judge for yourself. The criticism does not undermine the value of the book, however. If you're interested in the costumes and daily life of the Hasidim, this the book is for you. A little background of basic Jewish costumes helps a lot with reading this book. I enjoyed every page and emerged with more info about this overlooked sect. @shakirbahzad
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Format: Hardcover
How I identified with Deborah Feldman! Having been raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, I too detested its rigid rules, and over the years, have abandoned those restrictions that I felt were unfounded and/or demeaning. The author's introspection and inimitable spirit were remarkable ' particularly during her school years. I didn't agree with some of the language of the book; for example, if she used the term Shabbos (identifying the Sabbath), I would expect her to refer to the autumn holiday as Sukkos (rather than Sukkot). Likewise, when referring to the plural of Hasid, the author would use the term Hasidim rather than Hasids. These discrepancies interfered with what was otherwise a very pleasurable read. In my heart, I celebrated Deborah's ability to seek freedom from her oppressive past, her penchant for reading 'forbidden' literature, and her desire to dress like a 'normal' American woman. The photograph of Deborah with a cigarette rankled me ' It showed me that although she had spent so much energy on starting a new life ' she's now on a path of to self-destruction.
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Format: Hardcover
"Unorthodox" chronicles Deborah Feldman's childhood and adolescence. Raised by her grandparents, members of the most insular Hasidic sect, the Satmars, Feldman becomes a bride at 17, a mother at 19 and a divorcee at 22, at which point she enrols in Sarah Lawrence University and cuts ties with the Satmar.

Feldman provides a measured and thoughtful accounting of growing up Satmar and invokes the reader's pleasure through mutual discovery of new worlds. As Feldman discovers the forbidden pleasures of Narnia and Roald Dahl, we in turn discover her world: the traditional girls school, the isolated summer camp, and her education in the religious laws of modesty and purity that govern dress, menstruation, and sex. The author shares her intimate thoughts, struggling to reconcile her independent mind with the conformity that is expected of her. We hear her giggles, gripes, doubts, critiques, and challenges to the status quo, which she accomplishes without wholly skewering the people around her. Her accounting of her past is remarkably frank and compelling.

The quality of Feldman's writing is especially remarkable, given the fact that this is her first book, which she wrote in a non-native language. However, the final chapter disappoints as it lacks craft and makes too many proclamations with little substance. Ultimately, she leaves too many loose ends: how does she support herself and her young son? Does she maintain a relationship with her grandparents? Does she continue to practice Judaism? Perhaps a follow-up memoir will provide much needed closure.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very insightful memoir that raises mixed feelings. It is written with passion and portrays the way of life of the Hasidic Satmar community in New York in ways that I did not know before. It also gives one a better understanding of Hasidim Judaism not only in America, but in Israel and Eastern Europe where it originated. I did further research after reading this novel, so I applaud it for piquing my curiosity. This book might not be considered by some people as a masterpiece, but it certainly is the best I have read so far on the subject. Like Disciples of Fortune, it touched an aspect of Judaism many people are hazy about, or even consider mysterious. I hope books like this come out telling the word about other mysterious sects and practices found in the different religions. The world needs it, especially in our times.
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