I Am Forbidden

( 17 )

Overview

  A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular sect of Hasidic Jews, the Satmar.

    In 1939, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard. He is taken in by a Gentile maid, who raises him as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, whose parents are killed in the wake of Nazi ...

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I Am Forbidden: A Novel

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Overview

  A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular sect of Hasidic Jews, the Satmar.

    In 1939, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard. He is taken in by a Gentile maid, who raises him as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, whose parents are killed in the wake of Nazi deportations. Josef helps Mila find safety with Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. The two girls form a fierce bond, but as they mature, Atara feels trapped by the restraints of Jewish fundamentalism, while Mila embraces her faith and her role as a respected young woman in her community. When Josef returns and chooses Mila to be his bride, she eagerly strives to be an ideal wife, but a desperate choice after ten years of childless marriage threatens to separate her from everything—and everyone—she cherishes. 

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content

A 2013 Sophie Brody Honor Book

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The wonder of this elegant, enthralling novel is the beauty Ms. Markovits unearths in the Hasidic community she takes us into. Ms. Markovits, big-hearted and surprising, tenderly captures the complexities of adulthood for the one who stayed.... I Am Forbidden whips by, its extravagant narrative steadily cast with complicated, thoughtful characters.” 
Susannah Meadows, The New York Times

"Anouk Markovits's portrayal of the contradictions and compromises of Hasidic faith is fascinating."
Times Literary Supplement

“Markovits makes her stamp on the literary world with an ambitious, religiously-centered debut. [T]his ambitious, revelatory novel richly rewards your efforts and heralds a promising new writer.”
Entertainment Weekly

“A captivating tale.”
People
 
“Markovits’s heroines are disenfranchised but resourceful, possessing an innate spirituality, despite, or perhaps because of, the freedom denied them.”
New Yorker 

“A lyrical novel about obedience, rebellion and tragedy by an author who grew up in the Hasidic community she writes about. With poetic grace, she succeeds at depicting the culture from the inside out, conveying the way in which a life of limitation and law can provide a bulwark of meaning.” 
Ilana Teitelbaum, Huffington Post

“Anouk Markovits’s I Am Forbidden contrasts the fates of a Hasidic family’s two daughters, one who breaks with tradition to pursue a life of intellectual and emotional freedom, the other who cleaves to convention only to find her childless marriage is leading her to consider a course of action that falls well outside her religious beliefs.”
Megan O’Grady, Vogue

“[A] story that will resonate with anyone who's ever bucked family expectations to find their own way of life.”
Oprah.com

“Markovits brings off this balancing act with skill and daring. Everyone is given their due. Instead of disrespect or easy judgment, there is generosity of spirit and delicacy of the pen… This is a book absorbing as any midrash and as enlightening as a library. I feel its contribution immediately and powerfully, and am happy to have given my time to it. I recommend you do the same.”
Unpious

“A deeply felt account of people caught between worlds.”
The Jewish Daily Forward, Shoshana Olidort

  “In Anouk Markovits’s outstanding novel, the title words could apply to many scenarios within its pages: cultures, relationships, and expectations all provide constant obstacles to either rise above or muddle through. There are many delicate balancing acts, and through it all, Markovits’s characters shine through with determination and intelligence.”
Historical Novel Society

“Tracing the Stern family from Transylvania to Paris and Brooklyn, [Markovits] focuses on daughter Atara and adopted daughter Mila, closer than close, until Atara wants more than the Satmar world can offer. Markovits plays fair: the believers are not stupid; their harsh world has beauty. We dwellers in the modern world know what “should” happen, but Markovits shows why, for those in the other world, it’s not that simple.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Markovits creates a vibrant, multilayered tale set within the conflicting obligations of faith and family."
—Booklist

“Orphaned during the Holocaust, two ultra-orthodox Jews bound by love and faith are driven apart by the same forces in a sensitive consideration of tradition and commitment. [A] sober, finely etched scrutiny of extreme belief set in a female context.”
—Kirkus

“Markovits immediately draws the reader in to a family saga of faith and longhidden secrets, set among the Hasidic Jews of eastern Europe and spanning four generations.  A stunning novel; highly recommended.” 
—Library Journal  

I Am Forbidden moved me deeply. It brings many things wonderfully to life, including parts of history that I thought I knew but I now know better. Above all, it makes vivid the great comfort of strict religion, but also its sometimes painful confinement. I was swept away when I first read it. Now I am enlarged after reading it again.” 
John Casey, author of National Book Award winner Spartina and Compass Rose
 
“It is the rare novel that manages to be both achingly sympathetic and formidably honest. I Am Forbidden is both of these, and much more. Anouk Markovits's exploration of the obligations of faith—and the equally pressing obligations of the loving heart and inquisitive mind—is riveting.”
Tova Mirvis, author of The Ladies Auxiliary and The Outside World
 
“In this gem of a book Anouk Markovits takes a reader to an exotic world, portrayed with such warmth and precision that the journey feels perfectly real and the characters become your intimate friends.”
Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in My House
 
“In her intense and appealing novel on the Satmar pious enclave, migrating after the Holocaust from Transylvania to Williamsburg, Anouk Markovits scrutinizes with a sharp eye both sides of the human conflict between free choice and limitless obedience. It's a fierce and sometimes tragic struggle for happiness through belonging to a community closed in its tradition or through independence and individuality—involving mind and soul, integrity and ideal, hope and despair. The revelatory, well-structured narrative, focuses on a topic that goes beyond Jewish, Christian or whatever religious or non-religious dogma to the very core of many ardent tensions in our troubled modernity.”
Norman Manea, author of The Hooligan’s Return

“This novel is truly a seminal work on the topic of Jewish Fundamentalism. With unparalleled detail and poignant storytelling, this saga of a Satmar family explores and debunks the myths upon which the extreme version of Judaism we know today was founded, and it does so with a resounding clang. I found myself gripping the edge of my seat quite a few times, holding my breath while I waited to see how the characters in this novel would find self-determination. People will read this novel both because it is a beautiful story told in a magical setting, and because it completely unravels a world heretofore tightly enclosed. I extend my deepest gratitude and admiration for Anouk Markovits, who so skillfully brought my world to life, and abolished the mysteries that remained of my childhood.”
Deborah Feldman, author of New York Times bestseller Unorthodox

Susannah Meadows
…the wonder of this elegant, enthralling novel is the beauty Ms. Markovits unearths in the Hasidic community she takes us into. She remains largely nonjudgmental about the most difficult-to-grasp practices of the Satmar sect, while showing how even the most fervent believers struggle with the letter-of-the-law faith…As plot-heavy as it sounds, I Am Forbidden whips by, its extravagant narrative steadily cast with complicated, thoughtful characters.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
"I am forbidden, so are my children and my children's children, forbidden for ten generations male or female." With this opening line, Markovits immediately draws the reader in to a family saga of faith and long-hidden secrets, set among the Hasidic Jews of eastern Europe and spanning four generations. The story focuses on Atara, who rebels against the strict rules and rituals of her culture, and adopted sister Mila, who finds comfort and stability within the faith but struggles when she is unable to conceive a child. Raised in France, where she attended a religious seminary in lieu of high school, Markovits deftly weaves in copious information about Hasidic beliefs and the varieties of Jewish political thought during the 20th century while keeping the story intimate. Most important, she does not judge her characters but sympathizes with the human struggle in each, from Atara's rigidly devout Rebbe Zalman Stern, to Josef Lichtenstein, who can never quite forget the Christian woman who raised him as her own son during the war, to Atara herself, who thirsts for knowledge forbidden to her as a woman. VERDICT A stunning novel, the author's first in English; highly recommended.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307984746
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/26/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 266,893
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

ANOUK MARKOVITS grew up in France, in an ultra-orthodox Satmar home. She attended a religious seminary in England instead of high school, and left the fold at the age of nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage. She went on to receive a bachelor of science from Columbia University, a master of architecture from Harvard, and a PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell. Translations of I am Forbidden are forthcoming in a dozen countries. Markovits's first novel, Pur Coton, written in French, was published by Gallimard.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2012

    I Am Hooked

    This was a wonderful first book I believe for this author that kept me glued to my chair wanting more. I have to admit that I never read a book so fast in a matter of hours. It was quite an interesting story line and felt that I was in the characters shoes through their flood of emotions. By reading the novel's description, I would have passed on this read. I am sure glad that I second guessed myself to completing this novel and receiving a lesson in history that surpasses time.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2012

    Thoughtful and Thought-Provoking

    I Am Forbidden is the story of two Hasidic Jewish girls raised together as sisters in WWII Europe. Mila, made an orphan by the atrocities committed against her people in that war, is delivered to Atara's family by another war-made orphan, Josef, a Hasidic Jew being hidden by a Christian woman. As the years pass, Mila's faith intensifies, in part because she hopes it will lead to her reunification with her parents. She and Josef find their way to each other again and marry. In those same years, Atara's faith falters, despite her intense bond with Mila, and the girls' relationship is broken. A secret eventually returns them to each other.

    The persecution of Jews during WWII and the Hasidism figure prominently in the novel and the reader learns quite a bit throughout its course about Hasidism, in particular, as it is an insular community about which most readers will, given its insular nature, know rather little. (The author was born into, and raised in, a Hasidic sect.) The reason I think the novel succeeds so well is that though its conflicts are situated in a particular time among a particular group of people, the questions it is exploring are universal: when we find ourselves trying to fend off or recover from the worst of life's cruelties and blows, what will sustain and heal us? What do we do when those things are in conflict? I Am Forbidden is a thoughtful, historical novel, written by a seemingly knowledgeable and sensitive author. It was a pleasure to be in the world she created, even if it offered no easy answers to the questions it presented.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Great book

    I was instantly hooked. I dont like when people talk about the characters and the plot of a book, so I will simply say that if you are somewhat familiar with Orthodox Jewish culture and you love a well written book, this is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading this.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2012

    excellent book, could not put it down, shows what religion does

    excellent book, could not put it down, shows what religion does to ones soul

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2013

    Very good book!

    This is a story about a fundamentalist Jewish community right after WWII- the story is about how the children were raised and the pain this fundamentalist religious sect caused the women with their edicts. The way women were treated was just awful with the men having full control of everything or else. There are small parts where concentration camps were mentioned. Many of the main characters lost parents and siblings. The story followed a couple of these children into adulthood. Along with the pain of loss was the dogmatic religious parts - those groups chose to not deviate from the strictness of their sect and it seemed to me they made life so much more difficult for these people. First it was the fear of WWII, and then pleasing the rabbis. I would have loved this book to be much longer - I just lived in the pages as the story progressed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2012

    I was very disappointed.

    This book is actualky only about 150 pages. This does not give enough time to really develope tge characters plus it costs as much as much as a book with ywuce as many oages. I was hoping to get more insight on the cylture.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2012

    A heart-wrenching exploration of human longings and ambiguity,

    A heart-wrenching exploration of human longings and ambiguity, following four generations of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family from early World War II in central Europe to 21st century New York City. Rich in details about a highly insular religious community, it offers much for intellectual and historic consideration but is, first and foremost, a deeply engrossing tale of love and personal conflict. The story begins like many tales of Holocaust victims and survivors, but quickly involves the reader in both the specific details of a Hasidic sect and the universals of human motives and emotions. This is a slim book and a fast read, but it stays in the mind and heart.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Good idea, poor execution

    The story was decent but the book was boring.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

    The book was just okay, not great, or even good

    I liked the history and the cultural insights, but found the actions of several of the characters improbable. That a religious woman like Mila would act ad she did doesn't make sense, andher granddaughter, Judith, too? Lives are ruined because of decisions made with faulty thinking and no insight. It all doesn't ring true. I'd have preferred to learn more of Atara's life, ss she seems like a more interesting person. Knowing that the author herself escaped from a similar background, it seems to me that the depiction of the closed-mindedness of the Satmar community is meant as a slap at all the author left behind. I'm surr that there are people in thatcommunity who take joy in their way of living, but all that comes through in this book is negativity.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 5, 2013

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    Posted February 22, 2013

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    Posted June 2, 2012

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    Posted May 25, 2012

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    Posted January 1, 2014

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    Posted June 30, 2012

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    Posted March 7, 2013

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    Posted June 6, 2012

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