counter create hit Unorthodox - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Unorthodox

Availability: Ready to download

The instant New York Times bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author. As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everythin The instant New York Times bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author. As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. It was stolen moments spent with the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realized that, for the sake of herself and her son, she had to escape.


Compare

The instant New York Times bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author. As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everythin The instant New York Times bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author. As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. It was stolen moments spent with the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realized that, for the sake of herself and her son, she had to escape.

30 review for Unorthodox

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The minute I started this book I was engrossed and I finished it within 2 days. I found as a woman, it was almost infuriating to read. I also think it is disgusting and awful that so many from her former "community" are stalking her and posting fake reviews calling the book false. This book is HER memoir and HER truth and she is completely and utterly entitled to it. This is a rare look into this strange community. It is an interesting read for me personally since I live in an area where there i The minute I started this book I was engrossed and I finished it within 2 days. I found as a woman, it was almost infuriating to read. I also think it is disgusting and awful that so many from her former "community" are stalking her and posting fake reviews calling the book false. This book is HER memoir and HER truth and she is completely and utterly entitled to it. This is a rare look into this strange community. It is an interesting read for me personally since I live in an area where there is a large population. I never really knew what to make of these women I see often pushing baby carriages and conversing with no one but their own. Now, I feel a sort of sadness for them. I am sure that many are content and even happy in this lifestyle but I am glad for the author that she wanted more and she was able to attain it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Linn

    While "Unorthodox" is a fascinating and enthralling book, I feel as though it was written several years too early. The book left me with many questions, questions that perhaps could not be addressed by the author because her escape from Hasidism is still too fresh. Did she ever get to the bottom of her husband's infidelity? How was she able to take her son with her when she mentions in the book that 'it's never been done'? Did she lose all contact with her grandparents after she left? Did she be While "Unorthodox" is a fascinating and enthralling book, I feel as though it was written several years too early. The book left me with many questions, questions that perhaps could not be addressed by the author because her escape from Hasidism is still too fresh. Did she ever get to the bottom of her husband's infidelity? How was she able to take her son with her when she mentions in the book that 'it's never been done'? Did she lose all contact with her grandparents after she left? Did she become closer to her own mother as a result of her break with her past? I realize that this book was the author's ticket to escaping Hasidism, but it would have benefited greatly from a larger sense of perspective.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jaidee

    5 "controversial, vivid, courageous" stars ! 2017 Honorable Mention with High Distinction Read This book has been through so much controversy. Friends, family and her former hasidic Satmar community have blogged, exposed and tried to shame Ms. Feldman into quiet submission of her experiences and opinions and thoughts. I have perused some of these. I do not blame the community for reacting in this way. Some of them believe in the divinity and peacefulness of their way of life. Others are envious o 5 "controversial, vivid, courageous" stars ! 2017 Honorable Mention with High Distinction Read This book has been through so much controversy. Friends, family and her former hasidic Satmar community have blogged, exposed and tried to shame Ms. Feldman into quiet submission of her experiences and opinions and thoughts. I have perused some of these. I do not blame the community for reacting in this way. Some of them believe in the divinity and peacefulness of their way of life. Others are envious of her freedom and for others it may trigger their own guilt and shame. I do not judge their protectiveness harshly, its just that, Ms. Feldman has already been through so much, does she need to go through life having her character and well-being under constant assault. Please don't get me wrong I am not saying that Ms. Feldman is completely truthful but none of us is. Our memories are filled with errors, interpretations, fears, desires and if you add in a measure of trauma, naivete and neglect then what actually happened and what one understands can be two vastly different things. Was the writing of this memoir opportunistc ? Perhaps it was. We must remember her circumstances of lack of education, skills or ways of living in the modern world. Despite these issues with this book I greatly admire Ms. Feldman and her writing. She has a magical way to transporting you to her childhood and adolescence that make you feel that you are part of the Hasidic community. Their isolation, beliefs, customs, social structure and ways of being in the world. The writing is rich, descriptive, sad but also often very funny, loving, admiring even. I cried, I laughed. I truly believe that Ms. Feldman wants some modified reform of this community not for selfish reasons but to protect women and children. What some men often forget that is that feminism isn't about only equality and justice for women but for all humankind. When women have equal access to all then men can let go of some of their burdens and be free to be themselves in fuller ways as well as express the whole spectrum of emotions that is often denied them. Ms. Feldman, in a way, you are a pioneer and I admire your resilience, your passion and a desire to live life on your own terms and at such a young age. In the end, it does not matter, that you were not completely truthful. None of us is. Lekhi beshalom !

  4. 5 out of 5

    K

    Deborah Feldman's narrative has been challenged by many who know her, and although some (though not all) of the challenges may arguably fall into the realm of "he said she said," there is enough here to render her memoir dubious at best. I think we may be in James Frey land here. Deborah Feldman describes a childhood where she was raised by her grandparents, having been abandoned as a toddler by her mother to a mentally retarded father incapable of caring for her properly. Except some apparently Deborah Feldman's narrative has been challenged by many who know her, and although some (though not all) of the challenges may arguably fall into the realm of "he said she said," there is enough here to render her memoir dubious at best. I think we may be in James Frey land here. Deborah Feldman describes a childhood where she was raised by her grandparents, having been abandoned as a toddler by her mother to a mentally retarded father incapable of caring for her properly. Except some apparently well-documented accounts reveal that her mother left when she was a teenager and that Deborah has a younger sister who went with her mother (a woman Deborah paints as too disempowered to fight for custody). This already changes the poor-unwanted-tiny-little-me story quite a bit. On her blog, Deborah offers a vague and ambiguous explanation, stating that she did not want to discuss her younger sister because she is a minor but that she never denied her existence (would it have hurt to mention said sister just once, with a disclaimer about not wanting to invade her privacy, simply to ensure her memoir's honesty?). Deborah also states something along the lines of Williamsburg and community being a state of mind or some such, and that her mother really did leave the community even though she lived within its bounds. Whatever. People don't usually have to talk in circles like this. I'm guessing there's a simpler explanation here, even if Deborah doesn't want to share it. Deborah describes a childhood where she was required to hide her library books. A neighbor claims that Deborah's mother took the girls to the library every Friday. Deborah implies that her entire education took place within an oppressive Satmar school environment. (She also describes a Judaic studies teacher in this institution with a long braid to her wig, something which would never be worn by a Satmar Judaic Studies teacher who would only wear a short wig.) Other accounts (with photographs to prove it) report that Deborah spent her elementary school years in two more open institutions that she was kicked out of and was only relegated to Satmar as a last resort because family connections helped get her accepted. When I say family connections, I mean the Aunt Chaya about whom she hasn't a single good word to say. The one who takes her shopping for her trousseau before her marriage, among other things, and whose involvement, perceived as monolithically controlling by Deborah, also suggests caring and concern and generosity for her niece. Deborah states that Satmar girls over the age of 12 are not allowed to sing, ever, not even when they are praying amongst themselves with no men present. One wonders why her marriage-preparation teacher then reviews laws with her which include times that she is allowed to sing in her husband's presence. Deborah describes a bizarre mikvah experience and alleges that a mikvah lady was arrested for molesting brides, a story my friends and I have never heard. I find it highly unlikely that such an arrest would not have hit the Jewish blogosphere and gossip circuit. Deborah describes hearing about a young Chassidic boy's death and her immediate assumption that the boy's father killed him for masturbating. Investigative journalism has since revealed that this young boy was actually a 20-year-old whose death was ruled a suicide by investigating police. Deborah accepts no responsibility whatsoever for placing this misleading information in her book without following up with the accurate story. There are a lot of other things Deborah describes. She offers some pretty graphic details on sexual and other dysfunction between herself and her husband. She also includes her husband's picture in her book. Yet she defends many of the inconsistencies in her memoir by claiming that she chose to leave out information in order to protect people's privacy. I can hardly imagine a more gross violation of privacy than publishing someone's picture together with intimate details about their sexuality. Further, we see that Deborah has chosen to omit or misrepresent information which can be factually verified. What can we then suppose about information that no one could possibly verify, such as private interactions between her husband, family members, or anyone else? I considered giving Deborah a 2-star rating because her book was in fact readable, and not uninteresting to someone like myself who comes from a similar background. But then I decided to remove the second star because I don't like dishonesty. Before people call me out as someone who's simply feeling defensive because of the perceived attack on my own Orthodoxy (though I am far from Satmar), I want to say that I thought The Romance Reader was a great book. It was also labeled fiction. And yet it felt far more honest than Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots did, in no small part because it was not claiming to be a memoir. I could cut Deborah more slack had she made that choice.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Frieda Vizel

    Note, my review goes over the goodreads character limit. Read the full review here including perspective from the husband Eli and my whole incestous connection with this book. ** When Deborah Feldman’s memoir hit shelves in 2012, all hell broke loose. Not before or after have I seen so much to-do about our little niche world of defectors of the Hasidic faith. Everyone was talking about Unorthodox, raving, ranting, attacking, defending, calling her a James Frey or an Angela’s Ashes—fussing it all t Note, my review goes over the goodreads character limit. Read the full review here including perspective from the husband Eli and my whole incestous connection with this book. ** When Deborah Feldman’s memoir hit shelves in 2012, all hell broke loose. Not before or after have I seen so much to-do about our little niche world of defectors of the Hasidic faith. Everyone was talking about Unorthodox, raving, ranting, attacking, defending, calling her a James Frey or an Angela’s Ashes—fussing it all the way to the New York Time’s bestsellers list. I too was a cauldron of hot-headed opinion and “taking sides.” Soon, there were fault lines among ex-Hasidim. Some tried to criticize Feldman, and some saw this criticism as betrayal. I was among the critics, and that fact rained Feldman’s and other people’s anger down on me. I still hear about my unforgivable betrayal. Yes all we were talking about were pieces of the book and the book publicity. I didn’t give the book a careful read that first time. I was too worked up. Now, the dust has settled. I have much more distance from the story. I’ve also reaped a bit of the overflow from the book’s success; many fans of Unorthodox wind up in Williamsburg on my walking tour because Feldman piqued their interest. We are also talking about her again because the Netflix miniseries adaption of her book is due to hit on the 26th of this month. I’m cooped up in our New York City apartment with my Kindle, suffering the Covid quarantine. It’s a good time to give the book a careful review, with, I think, more objectivity, and also with an eye for how readers have reacted to the book since its publication. In order to give you the context in which I come to this book, let me tell you that I’m a metaphorical cousin second-removed to it. Here are the connections: I also was raised in the Satmar Hasidic community, and I also have one son. I am a year older than Feldman. We both got divorced with dreams for more, we both are public about our journey. I also lived in Rockland County. People often comment that I am like her. It makes me want to pounce and gauge their eyes out, but I can’t blame them. More importantly, I personally know half the cast of characters. Mindy the brilliant friend: She was my camp buddy and email pen pal for many years; she’s a magnetic personality. Her villainous mother-in-law: She was our chef through middle and high school, and she was like an icon in our schools; she was known for her eggplant parmesan and for shooing girls out of the kitchen as we went on the prowl for a toaster to make the whole-wheat bread more edible. Her husband’s “ugly” and “jealous” sister in law: She was my tenth grade first aid teacher and was known as “lively;” she, like me, lived on Satmar Drive. And the sleep-away camp scenes: Of course I too was in summer camp and can vouch for Mr. Rosenberg’s red beard and Mrs. Halberstam’s renown…and for that field of tall grass. And then there’s Eli, Feldman’s husband, who, like me, grew up on Satmar Drive in Monroe, although we didn’t know each other until much later. We met as residents of the greater Monsey area in about 2010, well before we had any idea about all the shit would go down. We were close for many years, and had a million playdates with our sons. Eli and Yitzy were really like family. I never met Deborah. She came as close as pulling up to my house in an SUV to collect her son, but that’s it. I never understood her. But now, by rereading her book, I think I know her. And I don’t like her much. She lives in an inner world in which things are skewed, poisonous. She is an unreliable narrator because she sees the world in distortions, and herself as a victim of everything. This helped me understand her, but it also confuses any reader who doesn’t have enough context, and it ends up creating a false brand of feminism, pointing a judgmental finger at Hasidic women who don’t leave the fold, regardless of their reason or ability. *** I’ve browsed the bulk of the reviews on both her books, and the single question readers want answered is: How did she escape? How did Eli allow her to take the child? How did she get custody? Was it proven that she lied about something? How did she get on her feet financially? Why doesn’t she fill us in on this in her follow-up memoir, Exodus? She does answer all these questions. It’s there, in Unorthodox. She tells us of the important moments but with many spins and misrepresentations. She is so consumed with her perpetual victimization that the reader doesn’t notice how her life evolves, how she slowly inches away from her childhood world. Let me tell you how she left, how she was able to get custody, how her husband allowed it; I’ll tell you by drawing entirely from Unorthodox. So behold... UNORTHODOX, REDACTED: Feldman introduces us to her life in the Williamsburg Hasidic community when she is a young teen. The early chapters of the book are very different from the second half. These are a series of descriptive essays without any forward progression in the narrative. She paints her world, and sometimes it is even lovely. She tells us the important part of her story: her shame. Her family isn’t “normal,” whatever the wretched word means. Her father is cognitively disabled, and her mother has previously come out as gay and left the fold. In the eyes of the community, Feldman is a bit of a pity. She feels that people look down at her and she is not comfortable being assigned to the lowest rungs in the hierarchy of status. She is already uncomfortable, already not snugly fixed into this world. I don’t say this with judgement, heaven forfend; it is more likely that those who already don’t fit in will leave. Think Shulem Deen, who also published a memoir or Gitty Grunwalk, who was in New York Magazine. The community loves to point out that those who leave are more likely to come from “broken” homes. “Why did she leave?—ah, a broken home, poor thing, tut tut tut, she just fell through the cracks…” The community reads this as proof that the breakaways are damaged people who are not rejecting Hasidic society, but are rejecting their own lives. But that’s not why coming from a different background makes you more likely to leave. People with families like Feldman’s are more likely to leave because they are not as deeply ingrained as those who have an entire respectable family in the community. For the “broken” homes, roots don’t run so deep, or there aren’t as many roots to begin with. In Feldman’s case, she had a mother on the outside and a father who wasn’t present. She lived with her grandparents where she had much less oversight than the supposedly normal children who suffered snitching and snooping siblings. (I know she has a sibling but don’t know the details.) Because she has a looser leash, she reads more. She can show off her advanced reading in class, and she buys herself contraband books in Boro Park. She gets away with it. She becomes a sixth grade secular studies teacher, a position held by the fanciest and most stylish girls. I’m showing the ways she is “deviating,” but I don’t deny her struggles. Undoubtedly, she was raised in hard circumstances, in a community of trauma and where the patriarchy inflicts its damage on women on a whole other level. The small ways that she modernizes or chafes or breaks the norms trace the growing chasm between the expectations of the Hasidic community and her becoming an ex-Hasidic minor celebrity. The chasm grows slowly. The reader might easily miss it. The weightier changes unfold in the second half of the book. At age seventeen, Feldman gets engaged to another “problem case.” She is to marry Eli, an older boy from the insular village of Monroe. He was twenty-four at the time, and that senior age tells you that he is trouble. Older boys are usually “bums,” the ones who just didn’t get engaged when their friends did and got bored and adventurous on the sly. It is hard to see in the early chapters that Eli is Hasidic Lite, because Feldman does not tell us much about him. She is fixated first on his blond hair (I hear one more word of blond hair and blue eyes and I scream!) then on silly grievances over the gifts she gives verses the gifts she receives, and then on the very heartbreaking difficulty consummating the marriage, as the couple grasps in the dark for answers and takes a year to understand and treat her vaginismus. This is especially devastating because as these sheltered novices grapple in the dark for help, their entire respective families butt in and violate their privacy, making things exponentially worse. But even as several real and petty crises overshadow the story about Eli’s religiosity, we see glimpses of him as more “with it.” Here are some things that are a tiny bit subversive: Most girls from Monroe don’t talk on the phones with their grooms, a golden wristwatch is fancier than a pocket-watch (which is what my family gives in gift exchanges), and it is not par for the course for a sheltered Hasidic bride to be poured wine in champagne flutes. Romantic gestures from my wedding night entailed sitting at the kitchen table and making super awkward conversation while we noshed from the three-layer cake on the triple level cobalt dishes. Feldman and her husband are first to embrace the new phenomena of kosher Chinese food, and they “sneak out to go bowling.” Things soon get devilishly goyish. Eli is a romantic (this I know to be true), and Feldman recounts that when she gets home from the ritual bath, she finds “the lights dimmed and rose pedals sprinkled on the bed sheets.” And ooh la la, “Eli likes foreplay more than I do. Before sex, he wants to kiss and touch, and feel loved.” Also not typical for repressed religious extremists, he “tries to teach me to kiss slowly…He wants to make the experience last as long as possible.” Of course, sex alone is never indicative of an entire relationship, as too many hypocritical males on this planet will prove. In their everyday life, Eli is also “progressive.” When Feldman vomits, “Eli hears me and comes out to hold my head, which is something he is used to doing for me.” There he is for the housework. “He takes to cleaning up the kitchen while I am ostensibly at the mikvah.” He takes her to her appointments, from the doctors about a rash, hypnosis, the many pregnancy scares, anxiety treatments, the unexplained STD. He takes a great interest in their child and cries when she finds out they will have a son and then again when the child is born. When the baby is born, she doesn’t want to hold the baby right away because “A glimpse of squirming, slimy pinkness makes me want to vomit,” but “Eli is already over by the crib, peering between the shoulders of two doctors…Eli is tearing up next to me.” When they arrive home with the newborn, “Eli has cleaned the apartment thoroughly, and when we get home, everything has been set up for the baby.” Eli agrees to relocate from the Williamsburg enclave to the city’s suburb, Rockland County. This gives her an enormous amount of freedom. Feldman describes her new home in a community of non-conformists: “I moved to Airmont… It used to be a small group of Hasidic families that had migrated from places like Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel, where the lifestyle was too rigid and extreme for them to be happy. A few young couples, like us—wives who wore long human-hair wigs and jean skirts, husbands who drank beer and smoked marijuana on poker nights. Someone called a “bum” in Williamsburg was now just another lapsed Hasid in the sprawling, diverse Jewish community of Rockland County. The difference between living in Airmont and living in Williamsburg is that as long as you don’t talk about it, you can break the rules. You can have the privacy to live the life you choose as long as you don’t draw attention to yourself.” It’s a big deal that she can convince her husband to move; it’s an uprooting of sorts. I remember when people in my circle were saying she moved. I still lived in Kiryas Joel, and when I heard through the grapevine that she moved, I envied her so much because my husband was adamant not to move, as it’s a “slippery slope.” Feldman needs only to prod a little to get her husband to pack up with her: “Eli has difficulty adjusting to change; he is by nature averse to any sort of risk taking. For weeks I lay the groundwork, reminding him how tedious his two hour commute to work is and how deeply that will cut into his time with the baby. All his brothers and sisters live upstate, I point out.” So they move. In the new environment, Feldman tackles a new milestone: learning to drive. This would have never been possible in Williamsburg. I wrote a longer post about the way Williamsburg women came to be barred from driving. Women are not allowed to drive. If they do, their children are not accepted to schools. This can be a problem if the husband refuses to consider more modern schools. Leaving is so hard if there are children who are enmeshed in the expansive Hasidic school system, but Feldman will never enroll her kid there. Feldman lives in Rockland County and is pregnant with her son when she starts on instruction: “Steve is my driving teacher…I wake up early so I can get the vomiting out of the way, and by the time he honks his horn outside, my stomach is usually settled enough… When we get back, Eli is sitting on one of the lounge chairs on the front lawn waiting for me, and Steve looks out at him and says “That’s your husband?” I nod yes. “Huh. He looks like a hip dude.” Soon she grows her hair in and wears bouncy long wigs; her entire look changes. When she visits Williamsburg to introduce the baby to his grandparents, the local kids peg her as a shiksa: “I return to Williamsburg in the summer to visit Bubby and show off the baby, and I wear my long wig with the curls in it and a pretty dress that I bought from Ann Taylor and had lengthened so it would cover my knees…Walking down Penn Street pushing the baby carriage we got as a gift, I hear a little boy, no more than six years old, whisper to his playmate,‘Farvus vuktzi du, di shiksa?’—’Why does this gentile woman walk here?’ I realize he is referring to me, dressed too well to fit into his idea of a Hasidic woman.” Her next secular endeavor is college. She is still married, still very young. As always, she is dreaming of ginormous things. She tells Eli that she will take college classes. She fudges a bit, telling him it will be for business, not literature. “I will learn bookkeeping and marketing and things like that.” He is fine with it. He asks her about the practical implications and “if I will be home to pick up Yitzy from day care.” continue...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Many of the details this book are apparently inaccurate, exaggerated, or even fabricated. I learned only after reading the book, for example, that the author has a much younger sister--so she couldn't have actually been abandoned by her mother as a toddler. She apparently also only attended a Satmar school for a few years after being expelled from one or two more liberal Jewish schools. I was suspicious, additionally, about the author's silence on how exactly she gained custody of her son (when, Many of the details this book are apparently inaccurate, exaggerated, or even fabricated. I learned only after reading the book, for example, that the author has a much younger sister--so she couldn't have actually been abandoned by her mother as a toddler. She apparently also only attended a Satmar school for a few years after being expelled from one or two more liberal Jewish schools. I was suspicious, additionally, about the author's silence on how exactly she gained custody of her son (when, earlier in the book, she mentions that such a feat would be impossible)--and by her complete ignorance of sex, despite all her extracurricular reading. What really did this book in for me was all the negativity. Feldman came off as whiny and immature, and that's just not interesting to read. Surely she could have found something positive to say about her family or community? Something she'd miss when she left it all behind? I expect some self-reflection in the memoirs I read, and some character growth. This didn't have it. It was just a run-down of All the Ways I Have Been Wronged.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maria Espadinha

    The Power of No Deborah Feldman is real. She’s a Jewish girl who used to be part of a religious community that controlled every second of her life: They told her what to eat! They told her what to wear! They told her whom to talk to! They told her what to do!... She was a marionette, an obedient robot and, at the same time, an extremely unhappy human being!... Until the day she met Jane Austen heroines! Those irreverent characters triggered her rebel side, and made her dream about a life without chains. A The Power of No Deborah Feldman is real. She’s a Jewish girl who used to be part of a religious community that controlled every second of her life: They told her what to eat! They told her what to wear! They told her whom to talk to! They told her what to do!... She was a marionette, an obedient robot and, at the same time, an extremely unhappy human being!... Until the day she met Jane Austen heroines! Those irreverent characters triggered her rebel side, and made her dream about a life without chains. A Huge No was now growing inside her, and... the moment she gave birth to her son, she was definitely determined to leave for good! Some years later... Freedom was no longer a Dream 🦅... Deborah Feldman is a young warrior, an heroine of our times, and her passionate story will probably inspire other Jewish (and non Jewish) girls like her to conquer their Freedom. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I confess that I really did not know much about Hasidic Jewish traditions or culture before reading this book. Feldman was born into the Satmar sect of Hasidism in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and raised by her grandparents. Her mother left after divorcing her mentally ill father. She found books to be her salvation, even though she had to become adept at hiding the forbidden children’s classics from her grandparents. This memoir exposed the myriad traditions followed by the secretive sect. Not surpr I confess that I really did not know much about Hasidic Jewish traditions or culture before reading this book. Feldman was born into the Satmar sect of Hasidism in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and raised by her grandparents. Her mother left after divorcing her mentally ill father. She found books to be her salvation, even though she had to become adept at hiding the forbidden children’s classics from her grandparents. This memoir exposed the myriad traditions followed by the secretive sect. Not surprisingly, the book was denounced by her former friends and family. Among the startling things I learned, the sect believes that Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was God’s punishment for European Jewish secularization. Therefore, she was taught to abide by old Jewish rules and traditions—filled with patriarchy and misogyny—in order to regain God’s favor. Nor is the sect in favor of a Zionist state. Apparently, Jews should not have to fight to have a separate state, for God will provide. Feldman found the courage to leave this religious community and gain a measure of personal freedom for herself and her young son. They currently reside in Berlin. Recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    A story of a girl brought up in a religion and culture that feels foreign to her from the start and her experience trying to separate from it. I gravitate towards stories like these because I think many people have similar experiences and can relate to the struggles of discovering who you truly are, and what you believe in. Then, how you deal with the negative impact that has on your future with your family and community who can't and aren't willing to understand. I gave this book two stars for A story of a girl brought up in a religion and culture that feels foreign to her from the start and her experience trying to separate from it. I gravitate towards stories like these because I think many people have similar experiences and can relate to the struggles of discovering who you truly are, and what you believe in. Then, how you deal with the negative impact that has on your future with your family and community who can't and aren't willing to understand. I gave this book two stars for two reasons. One, for someone like me who has little back ground in the Jewish religion and traditions needs more explanation. She threw out Jewish names, holidays, traditions etc.. without fulling explaining what they meant. This cause me to skim through paragraphs and gloss over the Jewish words instead of being able to learn from them. Secondly, I felt she wrote this book prematurely. She got this book deal before even leaving her community completely. If she had waited 5 or so more years she could have had a lot more reflection on how her life has unfolded and how she feels about her past and future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    With all the hype and publicity this book generated I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. I so badly wanted to like this but there were a few things that bothered me that I just couldn't get past. The book was decently written, (not particularly good writing but the honesty and humor make up for it), however the overall tone of the book made me instinctively distrust the author. I kept feeling like the author was more focused on taking her anger and hurt over her perceived rejection out o With all the hype and publicity this book generated I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. I so badly wanted to like this but there were a few things that bothered me that I just couldn't get past. The book was decently written, (not particularly good writing but the honesty and humor make up for it), however the overall tone of the book made me instinctively distrust the author. I kept feeling like the author was more focused on taking her anger and hurt over her perceived rejection out on the community than of sharing her own personal memoir with us. Also, the title of the book is somewhat misleading, as it doesn't really paint a clear picture as to what was a) so scandalous and b) so rejecting. It seems almost as if Ms Feldman is using her memoir to attack her former community and unfortunately, I felt like this discredited her a bit. In addition, there is an underlying whining tone and almost a sense of entitlement which makes it hard to like her, even though certain parts are endearing. I gave this book 3 stars because it wasn't a bad read, just somewhat disappointing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Smet

    I have been fascinated by Hasidim since a) I read Chaim Potok's novels, which led to b) my senior thesis on the relationship between Hasidic Jews and blacks in Brooklyn Heights, New York. As a result, I had high hopes for this book, and it did not disappoint. A fascinating, heart-breaking, beautifully written memoir. I have been fascinated by Hasidim since a) I read Chaim Potok's novels, which led to b) my senior thesis on the relationship between Hasidic Jews and blacks in Brooklyn Heights, New York. As a result, I had high hopes for this book, and it did not disappoint. A fascinating, heart-breaking, beautifully written memoir.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    A brave woman wrote this book and her spirit shines throughout. It takes exceptional courage to break out of the only life you've ever known, especially one as repressive to women as Hasidic Judaism seems to be. The story is a fascinating look inside this closed community where, like all communities, there is both good and bad. The author knew instinctively that she couldn't thrive where she was planted, and she knew this at a young age. The book is her journey from childhood to adulthood and ho A brave woman wrote this book and her spirit shines throughout. It takes exceptional courage to break out of the only life you've ever known, especially one as repressive to women as Hasidic Judaism seems to be. The story is a fascinating look inside this closed community where, like all communities, there is both good and bad. The author knew instinctively that she couldn't thrive where she was planted, and she knew this at a young age. The book is her journey from childhood to adulthood and how religious repression kept her from knowledge of even basic things. Women are kept mostly uneducated in Hasidic life, to such an extent that a young woman has no idea what to expect on her wedding night. Some women suffer from extreme lack of self esteem. Male children are taken into religious training at age 3. I applaud the author for saving her son and herself and for her courage in the face of fear and the unknown. She's wise enough to understand that some parts of her background are valuable and yet she can move forward with a spirit of adventure and freedom. Every non-Hasidic reader will learn intimate details of a cloistered religious segment of the population. The writing is straightforward and I would have liked to see more dialog. I liked the references and bits from other famous literary works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    Who will rid me of these religions! (Paraphrasing Henry II, 1170 CE) Too much? Not whenever the complete list of any religious rites and rituals and prohibitions and punishments are exposed, as they are in 'Unorthodox'. Which religion am I specifically talking about? Pick any one that comes to mind, although this non-fiction memoir is about a sect of Hasidic Judaism. Americans consistently come in near the bottom of surveys on having religious knowledge, yet always end up in the top five of count Who will rid me of these religions! (Paraphrasing Henry II, 1170 CE) Too much? Not whenever the complete list of any religious rites and rituals and prohibitions and punishments are exposed, as they are in 'Unorthodox'. Which religion am I specifically talking about? Pick any one that comes to mind, although this non-fiction memoir is about a sect of Hasidic Judaism. Americans consistently come in near the bottom of surveys on having religious knowledge, yet always end up in the top five of countries with citizens who say 'yes' to being religious. My own personal story involves taking two years to read everything I could lay my hands on regarding the history of religions and myths. Familiarity breeds contempt. My one complaint about Deborah Feldman's non-fiction memoir is she didn't include a fourth of the actual required 'sacred' restrictions and activities of membership in her sect of Hasidic Judaism. It would have put to rest all questions of why she felt trapped and how amazing it is she was able to finally leave her religion. I think she sacrificed informational depth about her religion in order to reach a larger readership. I wouldn't be shocked to learn she was maybe protecting her son as well. They both are young and they still need to live among some of the people and religion they are criticizing. As it is, I understand Feldman has had lots of death threats from those who supposedly claim belief in a loving fatherly God. I liked Feldman's book and the writing, if not the subject matter, of a child's shaping into a kitchen slave. The religious thrust of all of her education into being a silent, obedient baby production machine was interesting (actually a cultural shaping that is true of ALL religions, not only of Hasidic Judaism), if also utterly horrifying to me (see the slightly more fictional version of women's lives in Religion, IMHO, in The Handmaid's Tale ). I recently finished another book on a religion, Scientology, by Jenna Miscavige Hill, 'Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape'. Hill was another child trapped inside a dictatorship of minutiae and senseless institutional obedience. There are a lot of similarities between their experiences, but not in the way the authors presented their life stories. 'Unorthodox' is more literary and easier to read, plus Feldman appears to be more of a scofflaw resistant to authority by nature. Boundaries are challenges to Feldman, instead of limits. At age ten she slipped her leash and walked into a public library, forbidden behavior for her by command of her community. But more than curiosity or the seeking of information, she seems to have done it because she was told not to. There is a huge difference between Scientology and religious cults in the education of girls. I get the feeling that the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Feldman's sect, would not teach reading and writing to females if they were not under the eye of the United States Government, minimal as the sect's educating of women is. However, both religions forbid all of their children any contact with outsiders, as much as they can get away with. The Satmar sect, though, is far worse in terms of equality of females or in valuing women. Both organizations would prefer to add lobotomy to their rituals, in my opinion, but Scientology would at least be reluctant about it. Does self-induced religious ecstasy and prayer/chanting/fasting cause in you an intense desire to erase your personality in return for domestic slavery, endless stupid pointless OCD daily rituals/apparel, constant criticism, and one-sided sexual pleasuring for only males on-demand? The promise that after your indentured servitude to all men in your sect, and unjust severe punishments for the smallest mistakes and heavy daily workloads and unwanted pregnancies beginning when you start menstruating, will somehow earn you the love of God after you are dead maybe 80 years later? Are promises that the rewards of finally experiencing some affection and fun and justice at last after death, for which you sacrifice all free will and agency and fun in this life, enough to survive the horrors/deprivations/sect punishments in being religious while alive? NOT. Absolutely no. Just, no. The reward of a God's pat on the head after death after decades of sufferings in slavery, torture/abuse and deprivation because you are a female? NoT. Totally absolutely not enticing to me on any level. Many uneducated or religious females do not know, since they are dependent on historical religious texts written by men (not a god-check it out), long ago, and/or by whatever men tell them, there has actually been no sign of any god during all of the millennia of Mankind's existence. Religion was created by men to enslave and control people, especially women. Men really want to be sure children are of their own flesh, thus some kind of purdah or enslavement/imprisonment/restrictions of the movements and freedoms of women has evolved in every culture. Think about it. If any religion was truly good for women, then why is every single religion full of abnormal behavioral restrictions and sexual perversions and instructions on punishing/killing women? Why are most women in the world punished or killed for learning how to read and write, or marry who they choose as men do? Why is it religious people do not understand why atheists resist religion, when even the most ignorant of the religious know about the stories, as well as personal knowledge, of violence and murders committed by religious believers? I already know from experience how many Christians and other woman-despising religions are unaware of how unappealing all of those restrictions on female behavior are. Even worse, IMHO, are the religious who cherry pick amongst the requirements of being a Christian or whatever and yet they still believe they are members in good religious standing; then they attempt to to convince me that their Christian-lite or whatever-lite is legitimate. For me, both the fundamentalists and religious-lite believers are completely deluded and ignorant. On my list of theories as to why, the top one is that most religious people do not fully comprehend their religion. Surveys have shown ordinary atheists consistently know more about the history and ideas of their local religions than believers. My other top theory is those folks who need a lot of structure in their lives aren't going to let historical scholarship and facts destroy their need for regimentation and dictatorship. Live and let live, right? Right? Then why do the religious close the abortion clinics down? Why do they prevent birth control and contraception from being available to anyone who wants them, or forbid including family planning in healthcare plans? Why forbid gay marriage? Why force heavy religious rules on their families and employees with brutality and punishments? Obviously the religious are trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us by legal mechanisms, cultural ostracism and force, yet I can't tell you how often they tell me it's the other way around. As an experiment, I've sometimes gone to church with a religious person who thought exposure to the 'love' would entice me, only to be dismayed by the shock of me exercising my right to free speech in rebutting their utterly ridiculous statements and assertions of Bible verses as proof of a god's existence by using scientific and historical facts in my response. There isn't much godly love for me after that. Ordinary Christians often do not understand how their Bible came to be written, so debate is usually short and one sided. Faith is usually the last card the religious play. Faith is similar to a having created a lap in sitting down - it's gone as soon as I stand up for myself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    B Newmark

    This book felt deeply insincere and in an odd way, pardon the pun, unobservant—as if the writer did not deign it her job to pay attention to what is going on. The apartment rodent invested, the streets always dirty, the classmates mean or stupid or ugly, the teachers ignorant but only in comparison to the writer So to me, her attempts to frame herself as a victim and smarter than all those around her only serve to annoy. It is very clever in setting up the community based on the repeated adages a This book felt deeply insincere and in an odd way, pardon the pun, unobservant—as if the writer did not deign it her job to pay attention to what is going on. The apartment rodent invested, the streets always dirty, the classmates mean or stupid or ugly, the teachers ignorant but only in comparison to the writer So to me, her attempts to frame herself as a victim and smarter than all those around her only serve to annoy. It is very clever in setting up the community based on the repeated adages and labels she quotes; these fed perfectly into the construct of her as a grammatically advanced individual. Love the quote: “I am convinced my ability to feel deeply is what makes me extraordinary.” Well, I am not convinced she is extraordinary and certainly not in the way she wishes. Truly clever, she admits to being a liar at the bottom of page 23. “I can act so convincingly that no one will ever be able to discover the truth.” What is worse is that there is no reflection on the part of the writer as to why she lies. Are we expected to believe that it is because she is just that smart or that she does not value anyone around her as much as herself—um, and where would a reader fit into that construct? The clichés keep coming and the sensational exaggeration comes straight of some Gothic novel—Mad cousin in the basement. The cousin locked up with a hole in the door to pass food trays through. Did they order that special door from the door store in Brooklyn that makes them—did it have one slot for milk and another for meat? Okay a screwed up family with two old people trying their best—This lacks anything other than some clichéd observation from Chaim Potok. I can’t help but sympathize with the grandparents who have all this crap dropped on them and who honestly do not strike me as bad. You know it occurs to me how much of her complaints sound like a greedy child—had to wear hand me downs—Oh horror. In the first 100 pages she has mentioned Saks Fifth Ave 4 times and she is supposed to be in what 6th grade. This is predatory writing. It preys on every other person and situation mentioned in order to construct the writer as some kind of woman of valor. But it is so obvious that I am not even sure how she pulled this off. Sadly my theory. Best let people believe what they want to believe, even though she herself gives heaps of evidence to the contrary of what she says. And this really does not shed any light on anything Orthodox or Unorthodox. Neither are taken apart analytically. The driving force behind the prose is spite, after that jealousy, and I am not sure if either lead to much insight. “Scandals rejection?” Well it seems like her family has weathered a few scandals. The Rebbe’s daughter pushed down the stairs and killed? Never heard that before. Oh pregnant too—just like in Gone With The Wind—um. Another issue is the writer only declares herself as this or that—no process involved, no transformation. Is it the function of her age or something else? Well HL Menken said nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Would you like being brought up to never go into a public library? If you did manage to sneak in and get a library card which you have to hide, you would also have to hide your books under the mattress. You even have to hide 'Little Women'! If Deborah Feldman had not had the courage to wonder and then seek out knowledge about the outside world, this book never would have been written. I believe that her desire to know more her desire to read. That desire was a fountain of information for her and Would you like being brought up to never go into a public library? If you did manage to sneak in and get a library card which you have to hide, you would also have to hide your books under the mattress. You even have to hide 'Little Women'! If Deborah Feldman had not had the courage to wonder and then seek out knowledge about the outside world, this book never would have been written. I believe that her desire to know more her desire to read. That desire was a fountain of information for her and also a momentary escape from her troubles. What about losing your mom to the outside world and not knowing much about her. What about having a father who you don't feel connected to? You are raised by your grandmother and grandfather. Hugging and kissing in the family is not encouraged. Your grandfather is extra stern. 'Unorthodox' by Deborah Feldman tells about growing up in the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism in Williamsbug, Brooklyn. The history and politics of the sect is fascinating in itself and is touched on in the prologue. She writes in the prologue that she changed the names but everything that happened in this book happened in real life. This is a very rare look into a secretive sect. I did not want to put this book down for anything! It snares you from the first sentence to the last. It is not serious restrictions, there are funny moments and also a terrible lot of great food (all a particular type of kosher or it is not eaten. It is also how matchmaking is carried out in this sect and all the prescriptions of this sect. If you read this book, you will learn so much, enjoy it so much and feel so glad that Deborah Feldman wrote it. You will also be amazed at her talent and skill. I recommend this book to everyone, it is truly a must read. I received 'Unorthodox' as a win from the GoodReads program and that in no way influenced my review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ieva Andriuskeviciene

    3.5* As I am really into all kind of radical beliefs, religions and people inside it, I really liked the book. It is difficult to find many information about hasidic groups, this is quite accurate portrayal of traditions and proper inside look how is it to live inside. Some facts are extremely shocking. Did you know that woman are dirty almost half of the time? During the period, man cannot touch you in any way, even to hand a plate of food. After that it is 7 days of to get properly clean and go 3.5* As I am really into all kind of radical beliefs, religions and people inside it, I really liked the book. It is difficult to find many information about hasidic groups, this is quite accurate portrayal of traditions and proper inside look how is it to live inside. Some facts are extremely shocking. Did you know that woman are dirty almost half of the time? During the period, man cannot touch you in any way, even to hand a plate of food. After that it is 7 days of to get properly clean and go through public bath ritual in mikvah. “If there’s one thing that makes a marriage work,” she says, “it’s that a man must be king in the bedroom. If he is kin in the bedroom, then he feels like a king everywhere else, no matter what happens” All book is full of interesting facts. For example I never knew that there are so many different groups and dynasties of hasidic jews. To be honest, for me it was way more interesting and gave more knowledge than “Educated” If you interested in the topic there is documentary “One of us” where Deborah’s mother tells her story, why she left the community whet she was a kid Netflix released the series based in this book called “Unorthodox”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Franziska

    After having watched the Netflix series, I wanted to know more about Deborah Feldman’s past. She grew up in a Hasidic community in Williamsburg, NY, where every day life is full of religious rules and where social control and pressure are always present. In contrast to the series a lot more of her teenage years are described which gives a better picture of what her life was like. She also emphasizes more than once that pressure and control was exercised even more by women than men. Privacy also s After having watched the Netflix series, I wanted to know more about Deborah Feldman’s past. She grew up in a Hasidic community in Williamsburg, NY, where every day life is full of religious rules and where social control and pressure are always present. In contrast to the series a lot more of her teenage years are described which gives a better picture of what her life was like. She also emphasizes more than once that pressure and control was exercised even more by women than men. Privacy also seems nonexistent. Other interests than cleaning and getting children, are not rewarded. Deborah Feldman realizes she is different when she sees more and more of her friends turning into ‚good wives‘ whereas she is not willing to let go of the thought that there must be more to life... In the beginning she had high hopes regarding her (arranged) marriage which one after the other turn into disappointment. The slow path to leaving her husband and community and creating a different life for herself and her young son, is very well described in the book. Although she doesn’t describe herself as a strong woman, I feel like Deborah Feldman is definitely tough. She was able to create her own reality and define a future for herself and her son that is very different from what her community had in mind for her. So, this is a book about the Hasidic community as well as about a woman who follows her dreams, taking into account that she loses everything that was defining her until that moment. Recommended 🌟🌟🌟🌟

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anouk Markovits

    “I struggle to be normal and dream of being extraordinary,” Feldman writes in her incisive, moving memoir, UNORTHODOX. Hers is an extraordinary story of struggle and dream. Deborah Feldman lost family, friends, community when she left Hasidic Williamsburg — an escape planned so intelligently that she was able to win joint custody of her child. Jewish fundamentalist enclaves do not hesitate to separate children from parents who choose to leave the fold, and often succeed in convincing secular cou “I struggle to be normal and dream of being extraordinary,” Feldman writes in her incisive, moving memoir, UNORTHODOX. Hers is an extraordinary story of struggle and dream. Deborah Feldman lost family, friends, community when she left Hasidic Williamsburg — an escape planned so intelligently that she was able to win joint custody of her child. Jewish fundamentalist enclaves do not hesitate to separate children from parents who choose to leave the fold, and often succeed in convincing secular courts that the parents who have left are unfit because they lack the means to support the child. Indeed, the education these parents have received often renders them unable to fend for themselves or for their children. Deborah Feldman freed herself and managed to keep her child. The force of this book is that the same deft, perspicacious mind that plotted her own escape is the one that is shaping the story we are reading. She writes about her joy when her boy started to speak English, a language he had not been taught even though he was born and raised in New York, and she writes of her relief and hope that she will give him a childhood that will permit him to provide for himself with dignity when he grows up. Both her escape and her decision to tell her story are magnificent acts of courage, in particular for someone so young — Deborah Feldman is now 25 years old. Of course, the community that hurt her will not provide validation. The phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox people who did not read her memoir, yet coordinated en bloc to rate it only 1 star on this site, is almost a caricature of the larger social problem created by communities that vote en bloc and thereby subvert the democratic process. Some negative entries authored by people who have left ultra-Orthodox communities are equally troubling: They seem to complain that DF’s story is not exactly their story. Is it possible that these people have made the choice to leave but have not yet shed the fundamentalist habit of mind which assumes that an individual’s speech is representative of the whole community? What makes UNORTHODOX so good is the particularity of Feldman’s experience. Feldman concludes her memoir, writing about her new freedom at play in her life: “ [ . . . ] men laugh and call me bossy, but it’s true; I like to call the shots. [ . . . ] I dare because I’m free. I own myself [ . . . ]. Even if they tell you different.” That’s right. She owns her experience and she can tell her tale. I recommend UNORTHODOX for anyone interested in a bold voice that won this round of the battle. I am confident that this book, and its author, will do much to fight fundamentalisms of all sorts, and I eagerly await Feldman’s next work.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Saloma Miller

    I read this book because I thought I would be able to relate to Ms. Feldman. I, too, left an insular community (in my case Old Order Amish) in which preserving the collective or community was valued over an individual's freedom. I know what it's like to be required to follow the rules blindly, even when these rules contradict one another and any self-respecting person can't help but question them. I know what it feels like to have my education limited in an intentional attempt to keep me ignoran I read this book because I thought I would be able to relate to Ms. Feldman. I, too, left an insular community (in my case Old Order Amish) in which preserving the collective or community was valued over an individual's freedom. I know what it's like to be required to follow the rules blindly, even when these rules contradict one another and any self-respecting person can't help but question them. I know what it feels like to have my education limited in an intentional attempt to keep me ignorant of the choices I had for charting my own life path. I, too, gravitated towards a college education and eventually graduated from Smith College, but I had to leave my community to be able to do so. Feldman was very resourceful in utilizing the freedoms she did have in moving toward her goal of self-actualization. I did learn about the Satmar community from reading this book, but I was very bored with the first half (the childhood portion) of "Unorthodox." I understand that her childhood was very boring, but the reader should not be bored in reading about it. Perhaps much of this could have been omitted from her story. The other thing that strikes me about Feldman's childhood is that a boring and secure childhood is preferable to one filled with abuse, neglect, or uncertainty. Though her parents did not provide for her, her grandparents did. From Feldman's account it seems they did a fairly decent job of providing for her, which I'm not sure she realizes or appreciates. Perhaps these are the kinds of things she will appreciate later in life. So, given all the parallels between Feldman's life and my own, I was prepared to really enjoy this book. But I really didn't. Even though the book does get less boring when Feldman's struggles begin after her arranged marriage when she is still a teenager, she failed to make me care about her. Yes, of course I have empathy for her in a general way because she is a fellow human, but she didn't make me care about her in a specific way, because I don't feel I got to know her all that well, even after reading a whole book about her. I cared more about her education at Sarah Lawrence College than I did whether people thought she was glamorous or not. She herself seemed distracted from the learning when she wrote: "When the class starts, I can't hear anything the professor is saying because I keep looking down at my legs and smoothing the denim with my fingers." WHO CARES what she was wearing... I want to know what she was LEARNING. I also didn't want to see her take up the nasty habit of smoking by hearing how she pretended she'd been smoking all along, rather than show she was a novice at it. The last photo in the book may as well be a cigarette commercial. Doesn't she realize that smoking is no longer glamorous -- that in fact it has become passe? The emphasis on clothing and other superficial details seemed to be the "screen" she held between me as the reader and the substance of her story. Towards the end of the story, her husband, Eli, goes away for a week. Feldman tells herself that if she cannot make it on her own for a week, then she can't make it on her own permanently, but then she doesn't write about the outcome of that week... I would have rejoiced with her if at the end of the week she discovered that she can indeed make it on her own and use that feeling of accomplishment as an inspiration to make the final break. I didn't get that chance. Overall, I was disappointed with this book... I expected much more. Some people learn what's important in life as they mature. Other people live on a superficial level all their lives. Only time will tell which will be true of Feldman.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Mark Twain once said twenty years from now we’ll be more disappointed by the things we didn’t do than the things we did do. Mr. Twain might have changed that around some had he read Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman. I was excited when I first heard about this book and excited when I finally got it. I was interested in learning about Hasidic Judaism from an insider’s perspective and what happened in the author's life to make her leave the faith. I wasn’t Mark Twain once said twenty years from now we’ll be more disappointed by the things we didn’t do than the things we did do. Mr. Twain might have changed that around some had he read Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman. I was excited when I first heard about this book and excited when I finally got it. I was interested in learning about Hasidic Judaism from an insider’s perspective and what happened in the author's life to make her leave the faith. I wasn’t expecting a fairy story filled with tales of a wonderful life but I was certainly expecting more than what I got which was little more than a poorly written and poorly edited fierce and bitter temper tantrum. Granted, this is a memoir and not a biography and I accept that I’m reading Ms. Feldman’s subjective account of her life and the lives of the people around her, but even taking that into account, I believe that much of the information she shared with us was inaccurate and exaggerated and coming more from a sense of revenge and anger than anything else. If Ms. Feldman’s thoughts and beliefs about Hasidic Judaism weren’t bothersome enough, they were made worse by her passing off secondhand information and hearsay as factual. And what was factual was incomplete and left us with questions: How did she just leave? What happened to her husband? Where did she suddenly get all her money? Worse, and this is probably my biggest complaint about the book, was that she had no compunctions against dragging everyone around her, family and friends included, through the mud. Sure, she changed the names of everyone in the story, but she didn’t change her name and are we really supposed to believe that in the insular society of Satmar Jews living in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York she’s writing about that people don’t know who her family is and who her friends are? I feel sad for those people who were caricatured and shamed in the book. There was very little I liked about this book. Insights into some of the rituals around marriage and cleanliness were interesting, but that was it for me. Unfortunately, I took nothing away from this book. Worse, I learned nothing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shoshana

    “Unorthodox” is an authentic, gripping narrative of the author’s experiences growing up in an oppressive religious Hasidic community, and of how she courageously walked away from that community to provide a better life for herself and her child. Having lived many years in that community myself, I can attest to the veracity of the author’s description of the Hasidic lifestyle, as well as relate to the challenges she faced in leaving, and the exhilaration of being able to freely explore the world o “Unorthodox” is an authentic, gripping narrative of the author’s experiences growing up in an oppressive religious Hasidic community, and of how she courageously walked away from that community to provide a better life for herself and her child. Having lived many years in that community myself, I can attest to the veracity of the author’s description of the Hasidic lifestyle, as well as relate to the challenges she faced in leaving, and the exhilaration of being able to freely explore the world outside. The story, while poignant, also has its humorous moments. It is certainly as entertaining to read as it is informative, and for those looking for a good book to read it will not disappoint.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    2.5 Stars.....'maybe' 3 Stars (only because I never know how to 'rate' a book when a person is writing THEIR story). Its a different type of rating! Its very personal to the author --and for that I do respect THEM... However: I would NOT compare this book with "Infidel" in ANY way. "Infidel" was much engaing --more complete ---easy to follow her entire process ---and seemed to flow and feel 'genunine'. "Unorthodox" 'was' engaging enough ---( fast reading --a page turning book--not always likeable 2.5 Stars.....'maybe' 3 Stars (only because I never know how to 'rate' a book when a person is writing THEIR story). Its a different type of rating! Its very personal to the author --and for that I do respect THEM... However: I would NOT compare this book with "Infidel" in ANY way. "Infidel" was much engaing --more complete ---easy to follow her entire process ---and seemed to flow and feel 'genunine'. "Unorthodox" 'was' engaging enough ---( fast reading --a page turning book--not always likeable --yet, I was hooked enough to keep reading) ---but the title was somewhat misleading for starters --- and...... The first half of the book needed some serious editing ----(took WAY too long to tranform from a child to young woman) --- I got the 'point' pages and pages before the 'switch'. *Something* just didn't feel right about this book--I'm not sure I trust its facts ---it seemed lacking in Hasidic roots ---yet too much generalizing --- I found it hard to 'really' know WHO I was suppose to feel sorry for in this story ---(yet the ENTIRE story had a shadow of sadness)>>>> The entire book-and style of writing had a somewhat sour feeling. I can't say I felt any more inspired either by the ending. (It was almost---so???? and???? ----ok?????) ----- Yet: I do wish Deborah Feldman good health and happiness! --- This was an 'odd' book: not BAD--not GREAT---but a little 'odd') --- I'm sure there are inaccuracies throughout the story --- I wonder what my Rabbie would think if she read this book??? Overall it lacked the deep emotional depth one would expect to feel with this type of story Debrorah was telling.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This book doubles as a memoir and as an expose of the Satmar Jewish sect, a group so conservative that they're anti-Israel because that land was supposed to be returned to them by God, not by the UN. Feldman's portrayal of them is scathing, but probably fair; Satmars are, after all, like any other religious extremists, dicks. At one point in this book a guy castrates and murders his son for masturbating; at another the neighborhood watch catch and beat to a pulp some black kid for no provable re This book doubles as a memoir and as an expose of the Satmar Jewish sect, a group so conservative that they're anti-Israel because that land was supposed to be returned to them by God, not by the UN. Feldman's portrayal of them is scathing, but probably fair; Satmars are, after all, like any other religious extremists, dicks. At one point in this book a guy castrates and murders his son for masturbating; at another the neighborhood watch catch and beat to a pulp some black kid for no provable reason. So, y'know, judge away. The book itself starts out a little over-written - an extra adjective here, a slightly show-offy word there - but it gets better as you go. The plot heated up for me around when Feldman got engaged, and then the rest of the book cruised along. I love that Feldman identified with Pride & Prejudice because it takes place in a world so like her own: marriage is the only real goal for a woman, as she's excluded from the running of the rest of the world. This is a perceptive and carefully argued look inside a secretive, weird culture. (And one that's, like, right over thataway in Brooklyn, so it's neat to know more about it.) Yeah, I dug it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Randee

    I seem to be alone in not caring for this book. The writing was OK but rather like a well written diary. Nothing out of the ordinary. While there isn't a thing in Deborah's life I would want in my own, I do feel that her dysfunctional family and that of her husband's has as much to do with her experience as does the limitations of an orthodox life. I do know there are ultra orthodox families in which there is a great deal of warmth and love and respect. Women can be treated badly or women can be I seem to be alone in not caring for this book. The writing was OK but rather like a well written diary. Nothing out of the ordinary. While there isn't a thing in Deborah's life I would want in my own, I do feel that her dysfunctional family and that of her husband's has as much to do with her experience as does the limitations of an orthodox life. I do know there are ultra orthodox families in which there is a great deal of warmth and love and respect. Women can be treated badly or women can be revered for their important role of providing a nurturing Jewish home in which much of the important religious events occurs. Yes, it is foreign for many of us, yet there is warmth and love and respect and a close sense of community for many in this world(not just the "crazy" parts portrayed...which exist in all aspects of society ie did Florida not just say, OK, fine" when an unarmed young black man was killed by a self appointed Community Watch guard?). She took the worst case scenario which can be found in any group of religions, families etc and is unfairly making those not familiar with any aspects of Orthodox Judaism think that this is the way it is among 100% of the "tribe."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Gosh, I have so many feelings about this book. It brought up so much for me. First, I should state that there is a lot of beauty to Orthodox Judaism, even if it's not for everyone. But this particular sect takes some things to an extreme even devout Jews might have a problem with. Or might not. Yet another story where books are the entry way for a young girl or boy to envision new possibilities and eventually gain power. Without question books and education and colleges expose and you cannot hel Gosh, I have so many feelings about this book. It brought up so much for me. First, I should state that there is a lot of beauty to Orthodox Judaism, even if it's not for everyone. But this particular sect takes some things to an extreme even devout Jews might have a problem with. Or might not. Yet another story where books are the entry way for a young girl or boy to envision new possibilities and eventually gain power. Without question books and education and colleges expose and you cannot help growing and wanting more. It's probably important to mention there are modern Orthodox Jews that celebrate a much more feminist (in their vein) point of view. But it was painful to read this. Painful in so many ways. Degrading and sad, and so many losses of potential. The fact that she escaped it, but there are so many left behind. So much sadness in this book, and no reflection of joy. The part about the main character feeling shame because of vaginsimus, well that is quite real for women, and it can destroy marriages, even when there is love. But when there is not, that's a lot to rebuild within oneself. As I've said, very very sad. I have to say, the four episode season on Netflix was far better than the book! I really really loved it and in many ways found it more moving and more nuanced! I hope they bring back another season! For those of you familiar with either version, and I will try not to give any spoilers, the series almost seems to pick up where the book left off. If the book is spent in the pain of a child and young adulthood, then the leaving isn't until the last pages. But the series opens up with the leaving, and in fact the book is told through flashbacks, as a whole new world is trying to get to know this new and secretive Esty, and she herself too. In the series, Esty manages somehow to get herself to Berlin, where her mother lives, but doesn't immediately go to the mother. Instead she is drawn in through a world at the Berlin Conservatory, and it is through music (nowhere in the book is this so - if anything it is books and literature that is her window.) Her world begins with a group of new friends and experiences, and a naive young girl, but strong in herself forges a new way forward, with the painful flashbacks. What also made the series exciting, is that her husband travels to Berlin too to "find" her, along with a Religious Thug (if such a thing were possible) and has his own journey to see the world differently, while the Thug wrestles with his own psychological tensions. There is more to understand about the mother and the marriage, and these conversations, and silent moments, are what really make the show! There is so much that happens in the spaces here. There is plot, intrigue, danger, awakening, sexuality, and music. It was something! Liked the series a lot!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paloma

    Review in English | Reseña en español I became interested in this book after watching the Netflix adaptation and a documentary where the author appeared, along with four other women, to explore how women have been silenced and mistreated in different cultures all over the world. I was completely shocked by Feldman’s story and though the TV show changed some elements, in the end it did not affect the depiction of the oppression and hard life she led. Her story is terrible, sad but hopeful in the e Review in English | Reseña en español I became interested in this book after watching the Netflix adaptation and a documentary where the author appeared, along with four other women, to explore how women have been silenced and mistreated in different cultures all over the world. I was completely shocked by Feldman’s story and though the TV show changed some elements, in the end it did not affect the depiction of the oppression and hard life she led. Her story is terrible, sad but hopeful in the end. Feldman grew up in a very strict Jewish community -a community where women are mere tools for child-bearing, where they have no voice and no right to question men, not to say to ask or really try to understand religious ideas. Women are not allowed to read or go out of their community, and the outside world is forbidden -and this is in modern New York. Feldman takes us through her journey, since her early childhood to her teenage years, and how she decided since a very young age that she did not belong in that community. Her spirit was always inquisitive, and she was not willing to accept what her community told her was right without any logical explanation. I think her mind was always passionate but she was also fueled by her reading books she took from her local library in secret from her family. She was able to see beyond her world and finally, in her early twenties, decided to take a jump, and leave everything behind, accepting all the risks this decision enticed, not only because she had no knowledge of the world outside but also because leaving the community had its consequences -mainly harassment from relatives and leaders alike, to make her return. This is a very interesting, touching memoir, which takes us through Feldman’s personal journey but also to a community that because of historical trauma and pain, and religious zeal, has been oppressive to both men and women. Personally, I don’t think the author judges harshly the Jewish family and relatives that she left behind -she simply states she chose to look for her own happiness after living a life that did not fulfill her and she could not understand. I highly recommend this book. ___ Me interesé en este libro después de ver la adaptación de Netflix y un documental de National Geographic en el que participó la autora, y que explora la vida de cuatro otras mujeres en distintos países y cómo han sido y continúan siendo reprimidas y maltratadas. Me impactó muchísimo la historia de Deborah Feldman y si bien la adaptación para la televisión cambió algunos elementos, la verdad es que no deja de ser una historia muy compleja y dura. Porque sin duda, la vida de Feldman es muy triste y angustiante, aunque el final, el mensaje que transmite es esperanzador. Deborah creció en una comunidad judía sumamente ortodoxa, quizá en una de las ramas más estrictas del judaísmo, en la ciudad de Nueva York. En esta comunidad, las mujeres son meramente un vehículo para tener hijos, y en la cual no tienen voz ni pueden dar a conocer su opinión; mucho menos cuestionar a los hombres ni a los rabinos, ni preguntarse sobre su credo religioso. A las mujeres no se les permite leer ni salir de su comunidad, ni relacionarse con el mundo exterior. Y esto sucede en Nueva York, en pleno siglo XX. Feldman narra su vida, desde su niñez y adolescencia, hasta sus primeros años como adulta joven, que es cuando decide romper con su comunidad. Desde muy pequeña ella cuestionaba todo, y cuando preguntaba a sus abuelos por qué tal o cual cosa era así, la respuesta que recibía era que por que así lo había declarado el rabino o las escrituras. Eso nunca fue suficiente para ella. Sin duda, su mente y su forma de ser es de las personas que siempre cuestionan todo y que no aceptan una respuesta que no sea lógica. Y si bien, su espíritu también siempre fue algo rebelde, lo cierto es también que muchos de sus cuestionamientos se alimentaron también de otro acto de rebeldía -Deborah leía los libros prohibidos, es decir, aquellos no escritos por judíos que tomaba y llevaba a casa a escondidas de su biblioteca local. Sin duda, estas lecturas le permitieron ver más allá del mundo que conocía y finalmente, decidió dejar su comunidad, la seguridad de su familia, y ver qué existía fuera de ella, con todos los peligros que implicaba, no sólo por lo “desconocido” sino por la persecución de la cual sería objeto, pues no es tan fácil dejar esta comunidad judía sin consecuencias. Esta es una biografía muy interesante y conmovedora, que nos lleva por la vida de una joven mujer que tuvo el valor de cuestionar los valores establecidos de su comunidad pero también muestra el contexto y el trauma histórico que la hizo cómo es -opresiva tanto para hombres como mujeres, aunque sin duda más estricta para las mujeres. Con todo, me pareció que Feldman no juzga duramente a su comunidad y a la familia que dejó atrás, sino que solo nos presenta la encrucijada que enfrentó y la decisión que debió tomar -dejar todo lo conocido y lo seguro- porque ahí no era feliz, en una vida y costumbres que no entendía y no tenían sentido para ella. Un libro muy recomendable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    Unsettled by many parts. Mainly I'm keen on knowing how the author got permission to post family photos of members she claims to have not spoken to in years? It was extremely unsettling to hear her describe intimate moments with her then-husband only to then see his face in a photograph with her at the start of the next chapter. Does he know photographs of him in them appear? I wish that would've been stated, especially with an opening statement like this: "The names and identifying characterist Unsettled by many parts. Mainly I'm keen on knowing how the author got permission to post family photos of members she claims to have not spoken to in years? It was extremely unsettling to hear her describe intimate moments with her then-husband only to then see his face in a photograph with her at the start of the next chapter. Does he know photographs of him in them appear? I wish that would've been stated, especially with an opening statement like this: "The names and identifying characteristics of everyone in this book have been changed. While all the incidents described in this book are true, certain events have been compressed, consolidated, or reordered to protect the identities of the people involved and ensure continuity of the narrative..." Also, for so many people, like the well-known people who blurbed this book, this is the only view they'll get into Hasidism, so I wished the author would've included the good moments along with the bad, instead of just the bad. It reads like the point of view the news would've given on Hasidism, instead of the full scope of it. I don't know, I left this book feeling a bit like it's the kind of book to grow popular in Germany to mask their antisemitism behind a Jewish author, a "she-said-it-not-me" moment, if you will, as her Bubby warned her early on. Though, I will mention that her earnest writing style when describing the months leading up to her marriage and all that it entailed was something I really needed to see clear on paper to understand just how big of a deal marriage really is, especially when you're so young to begin with. Check out the first chapter for yourself with my Amazon Affiliate: This review and more can be found on my blog.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kalen

    I think I can now finally review this book, after taking a few days to chew on it. My initial reaction when I finished Unorthodox was WOW, incredible book. But, there were nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. I started reading this book, fully aware of the controversy surrounding it and the accusation that it is more fiction than fact, a la James Frey (someone I’ve not yet forgiven for his manipulations and mis-truths.) Still, I found myself sucked in to Friedman’s stories of life in a Satma I think I can now finally review this book, after taking a few days to chew on it. My initial reaction when I finished Unorthodox was WOW, incredible book. But, there were nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. I started reading this book, fully aware of the controversy surrounding it and the accusation that it is more fiction than fact, a la James Frey (someone I’ve not yet forgiven for his manipulations and mis-truths.) Still, I found myself sucked in to Friedman’s stories of life in a Satmar Hasidic community. While I’m inclined to believe the core of her story—there are secrets in every fundamentalist community—I caught myself with raised eyebrow, thinking, “Really?” in different sections of the book. Friedman is young and clearly emotional (who wouldn’t be?) so I’m sure there are some exaggerations. Lies? Perhaps. I don’t know and suspect we’ll never know. The thing about memoir is that you get to tell your story as you want it told. Should some memoirs be novels instead? Yes. But the reader doesn’t get to decide that. Perhaps greater concern to me than whether or not the story is true is the pain she surely inflicts in the damning story she paints of her family, in particular of her husband—the father of her son—and Bubby and Zaidy—her grandparents who took her in as a child when she could have been orphaned. What motivates someone to tell their story at any cost? How does someone profit off of words designed to inflict such terrible pain? I can’t even comprehend. I’m not defending their bad behaviors, I just don’t understand entirely Friedman’s motivations. Anger, pure and simple, is all I can figure. There was a part of me thinking, “You go, sister!” as I read this. Who isn’t inspired and motivated by a young woman who sees her path and forges her way? But these other two issues leave a bad taste in my mouth. There will be much more written about Unorthodox and I look forward to many more conversations about it, and I hope Freidman finds peace in her life, one way or another. And I hope for the sake of her son, she is able to find some peace with those she writes about in her book. I do recommend this book, but less enthusiastically than I did 48 hours ago. Read it and draw your own conclusions.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    Deborah Feldman's "Unorthodox” is heartbreaking, inspiring & brimming with chutzpah. She slowly and skillfully reveals the secrets of the fanatical Satmar Chassidic community. She pulled me into the daily life of her family as I met her bubby cooking chicken soup and her grandfather reciting biblical litanies. Her family members are deeply enshrouded in the old world belief systems. Deborah secretly struggles to reclaim her voice and break free from her family traditions. She is a feisty, fascina Deborah Feldman's "Unorthodox” is heartbreaking, inspiring & brimming with chutzpah. She slowly and skillfully reveals the secrets of the fanatical Satmar Chassidic community. She pulled me into the daily life of her family as I met her bubby cooking chicken soup and her grandfather reciting biblical litanies. Her family members are deeply enshrouded in the old world belief systems. Deborah secretly struggles to reclaim her voice and break free from her family traditions. She is a feisty, fascinating woman that I was rooting for the entire book. Anyone that has felt that they must sequester a part of themselves to fit into a community will relate to this courageous journey.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Doyle

    I'm almost halfway through this book, but it's my last-resort book when I'm tired of the other books I'm reading at the same time. It's not that it isn't a good read. It mostly is, though it's written in a pretty basic, I-wrote-this-in-college-English-class kind of style. The real problem is if you've read one I-escaped-ultra-Orthodox-Judaism book, you've kind of read them all. Unchosen (Hella Winston) was this book about a male Satmar Hasid done much better. And it's kind of a shame the message I'm almost halfway through this book, but it's my last-resort book when I'm tired of the other books I'm reading at the same time. It's not that it isn't a good read. It mostly is, though it's written in a pretty basic, I-wrote-this-in-college-English-class kind of style. The real problem is if you've read one I-escaped-ultra-Orthodox-Judaism book, you've kind of read them all. Unchosen (Hella Winston) was this book about a male Satmar Hasid done much better. And it's kind of a shame the message of these books is that ultra-Orthodox life is, for the most part, negative and toxic. For some, perhaps. But I don't think generalizing from the awful experiences of a few people can paint an accurate picture. A devout Hasid would probably find my devout liberal Jewish life distasteful. That would be a totally fair opinion on their part.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.