Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Deborah Feldman was born into an insular Satmar Hasidim community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Raised by her grandparents, she rebelled against the sect's strict controls even as a child, smuggling in "forbidden" works by Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Problems escalated precipitously when at seventeen, she was married to a man who she had known for only half an hour. This memoir unrolls the story of her marital crisis, her breakdown and her escape from the world she had known all her life. Jeannette Walls calls this book "a brave, riveting account of her journey. Unorthodox is harrowing, yet triumphant." This paperback edition contains a new epilogue by the author.

Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
“[Deborah Feldman's] is an extraordinary story of struggle and dream. . . . Both her escape and her decision to tell her story are magnificent acts of courage.”—Anouk Markovits, author of I Am Forbidden

“Unorthodox is a fascinating book . . . Feldman’s voice resonates throughout.”The Jewish Daily Forward

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

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

Unorthodox is consistently engaging. And the very fact of it is touching. For years . . . [Feldman] examined library shelves, marveling that there were so many men and women who believed in their ‘innate right . . . to speak their mind in whatever way they saw fit.’ That she has joined their ranks is remarkable indeed.”—BarnesandNobleReview.com

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

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

“A remarkable tale.”Kirkus Reviews

“Feldman’s evolution as well as her look inside a closed community make for fascinating reading … 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.”Booklist

Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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.
The Barnes & Noble Review

On the very first page of Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Deborah Feldman establishes just how much distance she's put between herself and Judaism when she refers to her "recent penchant for all things pork and shellfish." The first-time author, raised by her grandparents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, belonged to the Satmars, a branch of ultra-Orthodox Hasidim who make most of the world's religions look exceedingly permissive. Her memoir recounts her childhood and youth, through her break from the sect when she was in her early twenties.

While Feldman's story is sad and at times harrowing, the peek it offers inside such an enigmatic, insular community is unfailingly fascinating. Feldman's father, though never under medical care ("to treat a problem is to evade the suffering that God felt you deserved," her grandparents believe), has a severe mental disability, and her mother, married off to him without knowledge of his condition, abandoned Deborah as a child. Feldman is sent to live with her grandparents, kindly but distant Holocaust survivors, and endures a lonely childhood. The term "Jewish guilt" ordinarily conjures stock images of a mother complaining, "You never write; you never call," but Feldman's education takes the concept much further: she's taught in school and at home that Hitler was sent by God to punish Jews for assimilating. Her grandfather has faith that "if we go to extreme lengths to make God proud of us, he'll never hurt us again."

Such a belief system gives Feldman an upbringing long on rules and repression and pitiably short on joy. She exhibits an early independent streak, however, sneaking to the public library for secular books that she hides under her mattress. While such defiance certainly makes her worldlier than her peers, she is still woefully sheltered; for instance, she's convinced she's bleeding to death when she gets her first period.

At times Feldman's account of her early years is a bit, well, kvetchy. The self-pitying tone lifts when she resolves to take control of her life, and the eventual break from her community is as courageous as it is unlikely. (The overheated "scandalous" in the book's subtitle ought to have been some synonym for "brave" instead.) A matchmaker arranges a marriage for her when she's just seventeen; she meets her husband only once before their wedding day. The memoir's depiction of the first days of marriage between two nervous young strangers is astounding. Knowing little about each other and even less about sex, Deborah and Eli are unable to consummate their marriage on their wedding night, despite the fact that her mother-in-law has covered the bed with towels and left a tube of K-Y jelly on the nightstand. Eli confides this failure to his father the next morning, and in short order relatives on both sides are dropping by to rebuke the mortified Feldman. "My husband tells me it wasn't finished," Eli's mother says threateningly. And you thought your mother-in-law was meddlesome.

Feldman develops panic attacks, and a year goes by before the two have intercourse. She immediately gets pregnant, and it's the birth of her son that propels her to make a change. By then living in an Orthodox enclave in Upstate New York, Feldman secretly begins taking courses at Sarah Lawrence College, and from there the small rebellions intensify. She slips into jeans and, when she gets to school, removes the wig required of married women; she skips the mandatory monthly trip to the mikvah, the ritual bath intended to purify women for their husbands following their menstrual cycles; she begins blogging anonymously as "Hasidic feminist." Though she never makes clear why her husband and his family allowed her to take their toddler without a fight, she eventually divorces Eli and moves with her son to New York City, where they still live.

Feldman's straightforward writing only occasionally soars, but Unorthodox is consistently engaging. And the very fact of it is touching. For years the author felt fear and shame reading in secret, reassuring herself, "I am a good girl, I am a good girl, I am a good girl." She examined library shelves, marveling that there were so many men and women who believed in their "innate right?to speak their mind in whatever way they saw fit." That she has joined their ranks is remarkable indeed.

Barbara Spindel has covered books for Time Out New York, Newsweek.com, Details, andSpin. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies.

Reviewer: Barbara Spindel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594467212
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 2/14/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

On the eve of my twenty-fourth birthday I interview my mother. We meet at a vegetarian restaurant in Manhattan, one that announces itself as organic and farm-fresh, and despite my recent penchant for all things pork and shellfish, I am looking forward to the simplicity the meal promises. The waiter who serves us is conspicuously gentile-looking, with scruffy blond hair and big blue eyes. He treats us like royalty because we are on the Upper East Side and are prepared to shell out a hundred bucks for a lunch consisting largely of vegetables. I think it is ironic that he doesn’t know that the two of us are outsiders, that he automatically takes our existence for granted. I never thought this day would come.

Before we met, I told my mother that I had some questions for her. Although we’ve spent more time together over the past year than we did in all my teenage years put together, thus far I’ve mostly avoided talking about the past. Perhaps I did not want to know. Maybe I didn’t want to find out that whatever information had been fed to me about my mother was wrong, or maybe I didn’t want to accept that it was right. Still, publishing my life story calls for scrupulous honesty, and not just my own.

A year ago to this date I left the Hasidic community for good. I am twenty-four and I still have my whole life ahead of me. My son’s future is chock-full of possibilities. I feel as if I have made it to the starting line of a race just in time to hear the gun go off. Looking at my mother, I understand that there might be similarities between us, but the differences are more glaringly obvious. She was older when she left, and she didn’t take me with her. Her journey speaks more of a struggle for security than happiness. Our dreams hover above us like clouds, and mine seem bigger and fluffier than her wispy strip of cirrus high in a winter sky.

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted everything from life, everything it can possibly give me. This desire separates me from people who are willing to settle for less. I cannot even comprehend how people’s desires can be small, their ambitions narrow and limited, when the possibilities are so endless. I do not know my mother well enough to understand her dreams; for all I know, they seem big and important to her, and I want to respect that. Surely, for all our differences, there is that thread of common ground, that choice we both made for the better.

My mother was born and raised in a German Jewish community in England. While her family was religious, they were not Hasidic. A child of divorce, she describes her young self as troubled, awkward, and unhappy. Her chances of marrying, let alone marrying well, were slim, she tells me. The waiter puts a plate of polenta fries and some black beans in front of her, and she shoves her fork in a fry.

When the choice of marrying my father came along, it seemed like a dream, she says between bites. His family was wealthy, and they were desperate to marry him off. He had siblings waiting for him to get engaged so that they could start their own lives. He was twenty-four, unthinkably old for a good Jewish boy, too old to be single. The older they get, the less likely they are to be married off. Rachel, my mother, was my father’s last shot.

Everyone in my mother’s life was thrilled for her, she remembers. She would get to go to America! They were offering a beautiful, brand-new apartment, fully furnished. They offered to pay for everything. She would receive beautiful clothes and jewelry. There were many sisters-in-law who were excited to become her friends.

“So they were nice to you?” I ask, referring to my aunts and uncles, who, I remember, mostly looked down on me for reasons I could never fully grasp.

“In the beginning, yes,” she says. “I was the new toy from England, you know. The thin, pretty girl with the funny accent.”

She saved them all, the younger ones. They were spared the fate of getting older in their singlehood. In the beginning, they were grateful to see their brother married off.

“I made him into a mensch,” my mother tells me. “I made sure he always looked neat. He couldn’t take care of himself, but I did. I made him look better; they didn’t have to be so ashamed of him anymore.”

Shame is all I can recall of my feelings for my father. When I knew him, he was always shabby and dirty, and his behavior was childlike and inappropriate.

“What do you think of my father now?” I ask. “What do you think is wrong with him?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Delusional, I suppose. Mentally ill.”

“Really? You think it’s all that? You don’t think he was just plain mentally retarded?”

“Well, he saw a psychiatrist once after we were married, and the psychiatrist told me he was pretty sure your father had some sort of personality disorder, but there was no way to tell, because your father refused to cooperate with further testing and never went back for treatment.”

“Well, I don’t know,” I say thoughtfully. “Aunt Chaya told me once that he was diagnosed as a child, with retardation. She said his IQ was sixty-six. There’s not much you can do about that.”

“They didn’t even try, though,” my mother insists. “They could have gotten him some treatment.”

I nod. “So in the beginning, they were nice to you. But what happened after?” I remember my aunts talking about my mother behind her back, saying hateful things.

“Well, after the fuss calmed down, they started to ignore me. They would do things and leave me out of it. They looked down on me because I was from a poor family, and they had all married money and come from money and they lived different lives. Your father couldn’t earn any money, and neither could I, so your grandfather supported us. But he was stingy, counting out the bare minimum for groceries. He was very smart, your zeide, but he didn’t understand people. He was out of touch with reality.”

I still feel a little sting when someone says something bad about my family, as if I have to defend them.

“Your bubbe, on the other hand, she had respect for me, I could tell. No one ever listened to her, and certainly she was more intelligent and open-minded than anyone gave her credit for.”

“Oh, I agree with that!” I’m thrilled to find we have some common ground, one family member whom we both see the same way. “She was like that to me too; she respected me even when everyone else thought I was just troublesome.”

“Yes, well . . . she had no power, though.”

“True.”

So in the end she had nothing to cling to, my mother. No husband, no family, no home. In college, she would exist, would have purpose, direction. You leave when there’s nothing left to stay for; you go where you can be useful, where people accept you.

The waiter comes to the table holding a chocolate brownie with a candle stuck in it. “Happy birthday to you . . . ,” he sings softly, meeting my eyes for a second. I look down, feeling my cheeks redden.

“Blow out the candle,” my mother urges, taking out her camera. I want to laugh. I bet the waiter thinks that I’m just like every other birthday girl going out with her mom, and that we do this every year. Would anyone guess that my mother missed most of my birthdays growing up? How can she be so quick to jump back into things? Does it feel natural to her? It certainly doesn’t feel that way to me.

After both of us have devoured the brownie, she pauses and wipes her mouth. She says that she wanted to take me with her, but she couldn’t. She had no money. My father’s family threatened to make her life miserable if she tried to take me away. Chaya, the oldest aunt, was the worst, she says. “I would visit you and she would treat me like garbage, like I wasn’t your mother, had never given birth to you. Who gave her the right, when she wasn’t even blood?” Chaya married the family’s oldest son and immediately took control of everything, my mother recalls. She always had to be the boss, arranging everything, asserting her opinions everywhere.

And when my mother left my father for good, Chaya took control of me too. She decided that I would live with my grandparents, that I would go to Satmar school, that I would marry a good Satmar boy from a religious family. It was Chaya who, in the end, taught me to take control of my own life, to become iron-fisted like she was, and not let anyone else force me to be unhappy.

It was Chaya who convinced Zeidy to talk to the matchmaker, I learned, even though I had only just turned seventeen. In essence, she was my matchmaker; she was the one who decided to whom I was to be married. I’d like to hold her responsible for everything I went through as a result, but I am too wise for that. I know the way of our world, and the way people get swept along in the powerful current of our age-old traditions.

August 2010

New York City

© 2012 Deborah Feldman

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 163 )
Rating Distribution

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(68)

4 Star

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(28)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 164 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 17, 2011

    A must-read!

    "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.

    35 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Well-written

    I noticed there are many negative reviews, but the readers never indicate that they've actually read the book. Since I have read the book, I will say it's carefully written. While Deborah details the daily life of the Satmars, she's also very conscious not to add too much judgment. Her writing seems very honest. For example, she conveys an awareness of the material things she covets after her engagement and marriage.

    One thing the Satmars who are angry with Deborah and also Deborah herself doesn't seem to notice. The reason she noticed what was missing in her life was because she dipped her toes into our pool. In essence, she ate from the tree of knowledge, and once she did, she was unable to feel satisfied with the life she had. Being treated as an outcast by her own family, what did she really have to lose? I came across a few sites where people are defaming her, and I'm sure the Satmars are unhappy mostly because they are private and exclusive and she's basically torn the veil off their secret society, but so it goes. This is her story, and if it doesn't align with other Satmars, so be it. That doesn't mean it isn't true.

    25 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

    I read the many reviews of this book and I found only about half to be an actual review of the book or the writing, the other half were personal attacks on the author and that does nothing for the satmar cause, nor is it a considered a review. Im sure this book is going to anger some people because it opens the veil of hasidic secrecy. But this is a place to review the writing and the storyline. People shouting LIES! LIES! is annoying and desperate. This is HER memoir, she has every right to tell it how she saw it and lived it. So therefore it is not a lie. You are not coming across with a worthwhile point. And I seriously crack up on the people that say they personally know very religious Hasids and they arent like "that". For one, Hasids dont associate with gentiles,never have, especially Satmar's. And if by chance they "have" too, I can guarantee they are not going to be offering (you) up any details of private hasidic life. Please review the book only if you have actually read it, and are not just here to B*tch about the author personally. The book in itself was a fabulous read, well written. I want to know more of this story. I would read another book by this author. The only part I feel was lacking was that I wish she would have detailed more in the end about how the families reacted and where everyone is now. Maybe that can be in the follow up? The book is short for a memoir ( slightly less than 300 pages) but was filled with complexity, worthwhile pages and the extra "fluff" sometimes used to fill pages was left out. That part I appreciated. After page 200 I found I could not put the book down and stayed up well into the wee hours to finish the book. Highly recommend.

    21 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Bravo Deborah!

    As a nurse who works with this community I found this book reinforced what I already knew about the Satmar Hasidics. It helped me to understand them a little better and to not take personally their behavior towards me. I give Deborah Feldman so much credit for making a new life for herself and her son and hope that she succeeds in all she does! I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about an insular and cultish community living their highly restricted lives right in the middle of modern and progressive Brooklyn!

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2011

    How can there already be a review of a book that has yet to be released?

    Someone posted a review on Oct. 17, 2011 for a book due for release on Feb. 14, 2012. Does someone own a Time Machine?

    15 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2012

    I couldn't put it down!

    I worked with people from this community for years and I believe every word she's written. I know that there is a big review war about this book on Amazon, but know, Deborah Feldman is a gifted writer and an extra ordinrily brave woman!!! Kudos on the success of this powerful and inspirational book!

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    Anontmous

    It is one persons view people. Get a grip. I liked it.

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2012

    My thoughts on this book

    I found this book very intresting. I did enjoy reading every word. I enjoyed learning about a part of society I did not know anything about. I enjoyed her view point. I don't know very much about this community or this religion so I have to believe the Author. Plus, this is her story and how she saw her life not how people that lived around her saw it. The writing felt somewhat rushed at times. The big stories were there but at some points she will bring something up and then it is like she has a total change of thought and we never hear what happen. I really wish she would have told us more. More, about how her family reacted to her leaving. How her husband's family reacted. What is Eli doing now. Her father. I wanted this book to be more then just about her insentives to leave and more about what happen when she did...there did not seem to be "Scandale" in her leaving. I think is is a very good book that needed a little less editing and a few more details.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2012

    A waste of money

    Interestingly I live in Williamsburg and know alot about the community despite not being a Hasid, and what she writes in her book doesn't match up with what I know about them. I think she's like the "disgruntled employee", trying to get back at the community that she left. A bunch of rubbish and distorted views in the book. It's like reading someone's fictional novel.

    6 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    Fascinating Book

    I really enjoyed this book. Deborah is a brilliant, and I admire her ability to overcome such odds to bring her to where she is today. Learning about this culture was eye opening and i must admit it made me really angry. Once again men made up these so called ways of God, to keep complete control over women. This is a great book, and I hope to read more books of hers in the future.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    fascinating, wild with imaginations.

    Although i'm an ex-hassid, i'm still outraged how this author decides to go forth writing a book in a way that's tragically twisted, i can understand her madness and frustrations being raised by ailing grandparents, etc. it's still NO excuse to exaggerate or excessive lying ! i'm half way thru the book and feel it fair enough to say it's over 75% fabricated !! if you don't believe me you need to go no further than Googling: "Unorthodox' Author's Claim Of Murder Cover-up Rebutted", plus many more fabrications in the upcoming news. I think instead of returning the book, i'll keep it for future references, articles for evidences.For anyone who decided to buy the book or has the book, just enjoy it as a fascinating, wild with imaginations read ! I give more than 1 star bec i applaud her for the courage to get up, pack up and move out of the old community. Great bravery for standing up for herself. I just feel sad that she thought lying was the way to go ( and make more quick money ). if she comes out with her next book, 100% pure true then i'll give rating 4 or 5 stars...

    5 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Completely Not accurate

    Having read the book and knowing some Satmars personally , I can tell that this is not acurate at all. Completely distorted, and I am short of saying that some customs in the Hasidic works are grossly exaggerated. I have first hand knowledge of the most religious hasids, (not being jewish myself) WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY.

    5 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2012

    A book full of lies

    I am not sure how such a prestigious publisher like Simon & Schuster would publish such a book based one persons word with no factual backing defaming a whole religious community as a matter of revenge for her admittedly unhappy life, because of her family troubles.

    5 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2012

    I read this book because I thought I would be able to relate to

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    Simply Excellent

    Anytime someone breaks away from a religion there seems to be people who are still within that religion who will throw stones at the person who broke away. This was a memoir on the auhor's experience within the Hisidic religion. I found her story moving, informative, engrossing & memorable. Highly recommended.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Very compelling book.

    I just finished reading this book and thought it was very interesting and informative. It was very fascinating to step inside this Hasidic neighborhood and read about the different traditions and customs of this culture. I know the author has taken some flack for writing this but I honestly didn't come away from it with anything more than it being her experiences and her own thoughts and feelings. She articulates her view very well.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Great information on the community, where I grew up as child

    Growing up as a hispanic on the lower east side, Manhattan, New York City, I always wonder about the Jewish community. This book was so interesting didnt want it to end.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Superb

    I found your book about your life so real, human and interesting. Good luck with everything and enjoy life to the fullest.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    ¿Unorthodox¿ Belongs in the Fiction Section

    “Unorthodox” Belongs in the Fiction Section

    4 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Good luck putting this book down.

    I found this book to be amazing. Her story was moving, and a heartfelt perspective of a rather private world. Regardless of the negative comments left by others who have read this book, this was her story, and it's her life. This is her American dream, and all the hateful comments in the world can't take that away from her.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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