Reviews for Unorthodox : The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots


Booklist Reviews 2011 November #2
Feldman spent her first 20-odd years growing up in the ultraorthodox Satmar community. As the daughter of a mother who left to live as a lesbian, Feldman already was marked as different. Raised by her grandparents, she tried to go along to get along, but after marrying, at age 17, she knew a Hasidic life was not the one she wanted to live. There's no doubt that Feldman's evolution as well as her look inside a closed community make for fascinating reading. But this also seems to be a book written to settle scores, especially with the author's inlaws. Moreover, after all the buildup to her leaving, Feldman leaves many questions unanswered, primarily, how did she get custody of her son, the very thing she said the community would not allow? The final photo of her in jeans, smoking a cigarette, doesn't convey the image of the liberated woman she's trying for, but her storyteller's sense and a keen eye for details give readers a you-are-there sense of what it is like to be different when everyone else is the same. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 November #2
A young woman's coming-of-age and escape from a sect of Hasidic Judaism. In her debut memoir, Feldman recounts the many struggles endured while growing up within a particularly orthodox branch of Hasidic Judaism. The daughter of mentally unstable parents, the author was raised by her Hasidic grandparents, whose allegiance to their religious and cultural traditions often proved problematic for the young Feldman. Cloistered from the secular world, the author's pinhole-sized view of New York kept her at a continual disadvantage, providing a singular narrative for understanding the world beyond her neighborhood. As she matured, Feldman became more aware of the inner turmoil "brewing madly between my own thoughts and the teachings I was absorbing." As she continued to question her faith, she soon recognized the tyrannical aspects of the traditions, the culmination of which led to an arranged marriage for her and another young Hasid, Eli. Despite the sect's blessing, the marriage soon faltered, primarily due to sexual problems spurred by an utter lack of knowledge by both partners. The Hasidic community's uncompromising insularity rendered the young couple woefully unprepared for their relationship, as well as the parental responsibilities that followed soon after. After Eli continued to place his strict observance of Judaic tradition above the health of his pregnant wife, Feldman acknowledged her own unimportance in their relationship. Having endured her second-class citizenship long enough, she took her child and fled to the outside world, basking in her newfound liberty. It was a bold move, but Feldman doesn't fully capture the significance of her departure. A remarkable tale told somewhat unremarkably. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2011 October #1

It's hard to imagine life in any strict religious community, and the Satmar Hasidim seem particularly remote from the experiences of many Americans. Raised in a Satmar Hasidim community in Brooklyn, Feldman gives us special insight into a closed and repressive world. Abandoned by her mother and married off at 17 to a man she had known for less than an hour, Feldman started taking classes at Sarah Lawrence College and soon determined that she had to leave the community, together with her young son. At first glance, her memoir is fresh and tart and quite absorbing.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 October #2

Born into the insular and exclusionary Hasidic community of Satmar in Brooklyn to a mentally disabled father and a mother who fled the sect, Feldman, as she recounts in this nicely written memoir, seemed doomed to be an outsider from the start. Raised by devout grandparents who forbade her to read in English, the ever-curious child craved books outside the synagogue teaching. Feldman's spark of rebellion started with sneaking off to the library and hiding paperback novels under her bed. Her boldest childhood revolution: she buys an English translation of the Talmud, which would otherwise be kept from her, so that she might understand the prayers and stories that are the fabric of her existence. At 17, hoping to be free of the scrutiny and gossip of her circle, she enters into an arranged marriage with a man she meets once before the wedding. Instead, having received no sex education from a culture that promotes procreation and repression simultaneously, she and her husband are unable to consummate the relationship for a year. The absence of a sex life and failure to produce a child dominate her life, with her family and in-laws supplying constant pressure. She starts to experience panic attacks and the stirrings of her final break with being Hasidic. It's when she finally does get pregnant and wants something more for her child that the full force of her uprising takes hold and she plots her escape. Feldman, who now attends Sarah Lawrence College, offers this engaging and at times gripping insight into Brooklyn's Hasidic community. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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