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Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir | [Shalom Auslander]

Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir

Foreskin's Lament reveals Auslander's youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox community, and recounts his rebellion and efforts to make a new life apart from it. Auslander remembers his youthful attempt to win the "blessing bee" (the Orthodox version of a spelling bee), his exile to an Orthodox-style reform school in Israel after he's caught shoplifting Union Bay jeans from the mall, and his 14-mile hike to watch the New York Rangers play in Madison Square Garden without violating the Sabbath.
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Publisher's Summary

Shalom Auslander was raised with a terrified respect for God. Even as he grew up and was estranged from his community, his religion, and its traditions, he could not find his way to a life where he didn't struggle against God daily.

Foreskin's Lament reveals Auslander's youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox community, and recounts his rebellion and efforts to make a new life apart from it. Auslander remembers his youthful attempt to win the "blessing bee" (the Orthodox version of a spelling bee), his exile to an Orthodox-style reform school in Israel after he's caught shoplifting Union Bay jeans from the mall, and his 14-mile hike to watch the New York Rangers play in Madison Square Garden without violating the Sabbath. Throughout, Auslander struggles to understand God and His complicated, often contradictory laws. He tries to negotiate with God and His representatives: a day of sin-free living for a day of indulgence, a blessing for each profanity. But ultimately, Auslander settles for a peaceful cease-fire, a standoff with God, and accepts the very slim remaining hope that his newborn son might live free of guilt, doubt, and struggle.

Auslander's combination of unrelenting humor and anger renders a rich and fascinating portrait of a man grappling with his faith, family, and community.

©2007 Shalom Auslander; (P)2007 Peguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Shalom Auslander writes like Philip Roth's angry nephew. Foreskin's Lament is a scathing theological rant, a funny, oddly moving coming-of-age memoir, and an irreverent meditation on family, marriage, and cultural identity." (Tom Perrotta)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (246 )
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4.6 (80 )
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  •  
    Jeffrey Highland Park, NJ, United States 10-11-07
    Jeffrey Highland Park, NJ, United States 10-11-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "If my yetzer harah could write"

    Foreskin's Lament is the James Frey's "Million Little Pieces" for the Jewish world. It is extremely well written, and narrated. It is a serious, intense, incredibly funny and thoughtful book. The difference between the two books is largely accessibilty: a strong Jewish background is necessary to fully appreciate the references, language and context. By in large, I found it compelling. However, the author seems to cross the line of privacy, with regard to his mother, which did not add to the literary value and, I felt, was unecessarily cruel.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crusader Palm Springs, CA, United States 03-06-09
    Crusader Palm Springs, CA, United States 03-06-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Best memoir I have listened to in my life!"

    I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I purchased this book, and actually put in on the back-burner because I thought it would really suck.

    It turns out that this is the best autobiography that I have ever listened to (or read) in my 48 years on this planet.

    The memoir is very well written, full of great humour, and anyone who was raised by one or two domineering Jewish parents will especially relate to this book.

    As an added bonus, the author narrates the books, which adds much authenticity to the story. I didn't even realize until the end of the book that is was narrated by the author, and kept thinking: What a great narrator; he really understands this story.

    Those who already open minded will love this book; those who aren't will hopefully learn a few things!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    inquiring mind MA 12-22-07
    inquiring mind MA 12-22-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Painfully funny"

    "Foreskins's Lament" is a furious, often VERY funny memoir about growing up in a rigidly ultra-orthodox, dysfunctional Jewish family. If not for it's humor this would be an unbearably painful book; the author's suffering and his rebellious attempts to distance himself from his parents and their religion are wrenching. But, as I said, this book can be a laugh-out-loud riot and I really enjoyed it.
    Note to authors: please think twice about narrating your own book. Good writers don't always make the best readers. Do your book a favor: opt for the professional.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. J. Benyei 01-27-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Wicked fun!"

    An uproariously funny look at religion and one mans very personal relationship with god. If you don't think making fun of God (or more specifically organized religion) is funny, don't come near this book. But if you believe the man upstairs has a sense of humor this book is laugh out loud almost wet yourself in the car funny. It is side splitting fun.
    The narrator is monotone and his delivery is very dry, to match the jokes- PERFECT dead pan and the laughs keep rolling in. If yu've ever had a Jewish mother or known someone else's its even better. I can't remember every laughing so hard.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    irabby New Jersey 10-31-08
    irabby New Jersey 10-31-08 Member Since 2008
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    "Used and abused by religion"

    This poor guy can't shake his belief system and can't live with it either, he masterfully demonstrates how parents can almost destroy their children by imposing a belief system. The amazing thing about Auslander is that he survived with his intellect intact. Parent beware of the belief you impose on your children. you could be destroying their minds.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 01-16-08
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 01-16-08
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    "Sad & intense"

    Well...while there were some very humerous parts, this was one hell of a sad and intense story about a very sad and intense young man.

    I don't think it upset me as much that he hated his parents and the way he was raised (being Jewish myself !) but his anger at God and the name calling was a dead giveaway at how troubled and conflicted Shalom is.

    Yet...oddly - while disavowing his heritage he still chooses to keep his given name (not Anglicize it)which highly identifies him as a Jew and he still suffers from tons of "Jewish Guilt".

    I hope his own son is able to get through the world in one piece !!!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 11-14-07
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 11-14-07 Member Since 2005

    Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Cute"

    When I first started listening I thought this book was strange. I agree that you would get more out of it if you had some knowledge of Jewish customs, however I'm not sure that's necessary. Burried in the humor is a story about a boy growing up to be a man who has a very complicated relationship with God. His orthodox religious upbringing has caused him to believe that every time he does something "not allowed", God will get him and/or his family. I found the book to be humourous on the surface but quite sad when you really think about it.
    Personally I feel the narrator Shalom Auslander, who is also the author, has a very monotone, morose, monotonous voice. I think this is one of the few books I would have enjoyed more in print because of the narration.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelley CA, United States 03-06-08
    Kelley CA, United States 03-06-08 Member Since 2006

    Lover of ideas who feels no guilt at all about her pleasures.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "God, it's good!"

    Would it be wrong to call this a Jewish Angela's Ashes? What if I quickly point out that I think Angela's Ashes richly deserved every ounce of praise it got and that the comparison only speaks to my appreciation of both memoires?

    Shalom Auslander's memories of childhood are obstensibly less forgiving than McCourt's, but the unkillable love a child has for his parents is equally moving and the ill effects of holiness equally sad. So sad, you won't stop smiling.
    I think telling jokes while the Titanic sinks (and children are taught the universe is being run by a lunatic) is both useful and commendable. I liked the book so much in fact, that I'm giving it long term tenant privileges on my IPOD. (That's my highest rating.)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 03-12-13
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 03-12-13 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

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    "The book equivalent of Ambien"

    Yawn! - I mean yawn..... I don't know how he did it, but the author actually killed the allure of deliciously vulgar language and inappropriate hilarity in this book enough to make me wish it would just hurry up and die already. Talented writing and lots of (mostly sarcastic) info on Jewish customs and culture - so I can't say I didn't learn anything, but I also can't say it was worth it in the end. On a good note, this was the perfect book to fall asleep to and I got tons of work done while listening because it was so easy to relegate to the background. I relate to author as a person - he's bitter, negative, and crabby as hell - what's not to love? I just didn't care for the book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annette United States 08-20-12
    Annette United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2004

    I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Awesome. God is out to get us.. well, him at least"

    There are people who write as they talk (Sedaris comes to mind) and perform they're work perfectly. There are those who just get in the way. This story was perfectly read. Like military service, religion binds us together against a common enemy sometimes...and Shalom goes the distance with the humor that shows us why the bonds run so deep and produce the best humor. There are those who say all humor is from pain - only the really good stuff. It's not Portnoy's Complaint... but in all honesty, i listened to it through a crown and two fillings and actually LAUGHED during that. I'm not even making that up. A favorite listen by far.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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