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Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots
Deborah Feldman was born into the Satmar sect of a Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her memoir addresses her coming-of-age and eventual departure from that community. The book’s publication created a flurry of publicity.
An author video, available on Feldman’s homepage, shares a bit of what she was hoping to achieve and how attending college, in secret, helped give her courage to change her life. Her February 14th appearance on The View created quite a bit of controversy.
Adult/High School–“An empty vessel clangs the loudest.” Outspoken, insolent women in the Satmar Hasidic sect of Judaism are likely to be spiritually hollow. From an early age, this adage is repeated to intellectually curious, always questioning Devoiri Feldman. Her oldest aunt, controlling, take-charge Chaya, constantly reminds her to obey, as do her teachers and her Yiddish textbooks. Feldman carries a stigma of shame in the Satmar community of Brooklyn, NY. Her father’s childlike behavior and lack of personal hygiene leave him all but unemployable. Her mother flees her untenable arranged marriage, leaving young Devoiri to be raised by her strict paternal grandparents. She yearns to take control of her future even as she knows the restrictive path her religion dictates. Compulsively readable, Unorthodox relates a unique coming-of-age story that manages to speak personally to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in her own life. Feldman bravely lays her soul bare, unflinchingly sharing intimate thoughts and ideas unthinkable within the deeply religious existence of the Satmars. She finds solace and inspiration in the pages of forbidden novels like Little Women that she keeps hidden beneath her mattress. At 17, she is completely unprepared for the intimacy and strictures of her own arranged marriage. After giving birth to a son just over two years later, Feldman musters the courage to take the steps that will ultimately sever her ties to this community. Teens will devour this candid, detailed memoir of an insular way of life so unlike that of the surrounding society.–Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD
Filed under: Memoir
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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