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Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots | [Deborah Feldman]

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots

In this captivating memoir, Deborah Feldman takes listeners on an eye-opening journey into Orthodox Jewish culture. Raised in the suffocating world of Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidim, Feldman was told what to read and who she was allowed to talk to. Married off at 17, she suffered from anxiety and was shamed by an inability to please her older husband. But after giving birth to a son at age 19, Feldman realized it was time to tear up her roots and make her own path in life.
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Publisher's Summary

In this captivating memoir, Deborah Feldman takes listeners on an eye-opening journey into Orthodox Jewish culture. Raised in the suffocating world of Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidim, Feldman was told what to read and who she was allowed to talk to. Married off at 17, she suffered from anxiety and was shamed by an inability to please her older husband. But after giving birth to a son at age 19, Feldman realized it was time to tear up her roots and make her own path in life.

©2012 Deborah Feldman (P)2012 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

Deborah Feldman was raised in an insular, oppressive world where she was taught that, as a woman, she wasn’t capable of independent thought. But she found the pluck and determination needed to make the break from that world and has written a brave, riveting account of her journey. Unorthodox is harrowing, yet triumphant.” (Jeannette Walls, #1 bestselling author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses)

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 03-10-12
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 03-10-12 Member Since 2005

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

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    "A one-sided glimpse into a secretive world"

    Having lived an observant lifestyle for a very short time in my youth, I was not completely blindsided by the Hasidic way of life portrayed in Unorthodox.

    So with a bit of background I delved into Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. The first half of Unorthodox explores the customs, laws and lifestyles of Satmar Hasidim. The reader learns about this extreme sect of Jews and this sets the scene for Feldman’s reason for her escape to a less oppressive western culture. She explains how she felt as a child growing up and then as a young woman in this bizarro world where she felt repressed, unclean, and more of a tool for making babies than an equal partner in a marriage.

    While reading this book, I had to remember that this is Feldman’s account of what happened around her. It doesn’t represent all of the Satmar Hasidim. Her father had a mental illness and her mother left her to be raised by her grandparents. Right off, this sets the scene for a dysfunctional life. She ends up in an arranged marriage, which is the norm, but her husband is a mama’s boy, lazy and insensitive. Gee, I know lots of guys like that and they aren’t Satmars at all! So Feldman ends up in a bad marriage with its share of problems, the primary one being sexual. Since they are both virgins when they marry, they need to discover sex as a couple, something that could be very special, but for these two it ends up being gross and convoluted, again, not necessarily a “Satmar” problem. Deborah and her husband Eli are misfits and she looks for ways to escape and find happiness elsewhere.

    Many people settle for a miserable existence and this is where I have to give Feldman credit. She left her family, friends, husband and the only life she knew and escaped to unchartered waters where she hoped she could live a more fulfilling and happy life. That takes courage and guts.

    Unorthodox is written as a one-sided glimpse into the enclosed secretive world of extreme Orthodoxy. Feldman airs the dirty laundry of this eccentric, sacred club, which is not all that different from any extreme religious group. When you read this memoir you have to keep in mind that you’re reading Deborah Feldman’s individual story. This is her book, her journey.

    The narrator didn't add anything to the book. She got tongue-tied on many of the Yiddish words and mispronounced others to the point of causing me to have to rewind to understand what she said. If you can get past that, she was okay.

    30 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin new york, new york, United States 03-18-12
    Robin new york, new york, United States 03-18-12 Member Since 2010

    Hi all. I'm in my 50's (that's relevant, i think), and I favor fiction. I like the british sensibility, and was introduced to the Forsyte Saga through audible ... loved it! I happen to also like Chinese writers, but they are not well represented yet at audible. Looking to follow readers with similar tastes ...

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    "a very personal story told with grace and humility"

    although written by a relatively young woman, the account feels real and honest. i hope the book has great success so that this author has a solid new beginning.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DIANE Thornhill,, Ontario, Canada 03-16-12
    DIANE Thornhill,, Ontario, Canada 03-16-12 Member Since 2009

    I am an avid "reader"- I prefer to listen to books rather than read them due to the added dimension added by the narrator.

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    "An interesting look into the Hasidic community"
    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Devoireleh was by far the best character in the book. She had enough insight to see that the Hasidic life was not for her... even as a child. She never really espoused the traditions of her community.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    If you ever thought you weren't comfortable in your own skin....


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan TUSTIN RANCH, CA, United States 10-09-12
    Jonathan TUSTIN RANCH, CA, United States 10-09-12 Member Since 2011

    Jonathan F.

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    "Fascinating look behind the 'dark' Satmar curtain"

    This is an interesting, personal memoir of one woman's early life in the rigid and old-fashioned Satmar sect of the Jewish community. It is not a documentary and not an expose of this ultra-Orthodox group of people. For those who don't know, the Satmar tend to live lives that are largely cut off from neighboring communities. The communities are mostly self-sufficient, somewhat like the Amish, although the Satmar do use clothes, books, food and products made in modern manufacturing facilities.
    From watching an interview with the writer, it becomes apparent that she has too much 'spark' and individuality to be satisfied and/or successful in such a rigid, narrow, male-dominated (some would say sexist) environment. Part of Feldman's personality has probably developed since she left the Satmar community with her young son a few years ago. I don't think people "choose" to belong to a Satmar comunity; one is born into that tradition.
    I can recommend this book to people who know about Judaism (or are Jewish) and want to read a personal story of life both inside and outside the Satmar Jewish community. The narrator is just "OK" in my opinion, but the storyline keeps one listening all the way through to the end.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen FROSTBURG, MD, United States 07-30-12
    Ellen FROSTBURG, MD, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2004
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    "Unremarkable"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    I found the narrator's baby-ish voice very annoying and will try to avoid her in the future.


    What could Deborah Feldman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    The story needs a better( and more insightful) author. Potentially an engaging tale, the book's prose is on the level of a good high-school/freshman composition writer and thus disappoints.

    Technique aside, there were huge chunks of the story that the author simply did not deal with: at some point the author indicated that although she was considering leaving the marriage, it would be impossible to take her son with her due to the objections that her husband would certainly voice. Then all of a sudden she's moved out with--with her son--and we never hear anything about her interaction with the husband on the subject. There were several such inconsistencies.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The timbre of her voice seemed too childish/childlike; not well suited to narrating anything other than kids' books. I found it affected and grating.


    You didn???t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    For someone unfamiliar with the customs of the Orthodox I think it would probably be an interesting read. As a Jewish reader (although not an Orthodox one) I was still hoping to gain some insights into this branch of Judaism, but that didn't happen.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria United States 03-12-12
    Maria United States 03-12-12 Member Since 2012

    Married mother of 3, grandmother of 2 . I grew up in NYC and live in Tx. I am a semi-retired attorney-RN; I love little dogs and traveling.

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    "Loved it!"
    Would you listen to Unorthodox again? Why?

    I loved this book. Ms. Feldman's story gives the reader a glimpse into the closed world of the Hasadic sect and the trials and tribulations of a young woman yearning to be free.


    Have you listened to any of Rachel Botchan’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This was the first of Ms. Botchan's performances that I have heard; I enjoyed it very much.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were many but I could feel the author's sense of hope when she is newly engaged and then her outrage when she is confronted by her mother -in- law about her sex life. I was hoping for a happy ending and I wish the author continued happiness in her newly found freedom.


    Any additional comments?

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about other cultures or religions.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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    firstlady591 02-18-12 Member Since 2005
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    "I could barely tear myself away!"

    I know that a lot of people have been upset by what is written in this book, but I could not put it down! deborah speaks boldly of her experiences in the community and i can offer her nothing but praise. She uplifts and inspires! I am not jewish, but i left mu fundamentalist religious community in my early 20's. I totally related to her struggle. I could not put this book down!

    21 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shannon Shreveport, LA, United States 03-02-12
    shannon Shreveport, LA, United States 03-02-12

    For the first time in my life, I look forward to exercising! Books are sooooo much more interesting than music. Thank you Audible!

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    "I am still haunted by this woman's story."
    Would you listen to Unorthodox again? Why?

    I don't necessarily think I would listen to it again, but only because it was so riveting that it had my full attention the first time.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Well, Deborah, of course, it was her story. But you also become extremely fond of her paternal grandmother.


    What about Rachel Botchan’s performance did you like?

    In general I prefer author narrativization, but she did a wonderful job.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    ABSOLUTELY. I had to tear myself away each time.


    Any additional comments?

    I read (and now listen to) memoirs/bios almost exclusively, and this one will be with me for a very long time.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DK COLCHESTER, VT, United States 05-30-13
    DK COLCHESTER, VT, United States 05-30-13 Member Since 2012

    HATE spoilers! Enjoy HOT, sexy books. No vampires, paranormal, teens 4 me. Running out this type Audible-so on2 lighter romance/mystery :-(

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    "Interesting Look Into A Religion/Culture I'm...."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes, it is an interesting read.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The author's perspective and story telling.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Probably not


    Any additional comments?

    Interesting Look Into A Religion/Culture I'm not familiar with.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Allen, TX, United States 05-07-13
    Janet Allen, TX, United States 05-07-13 Member Since 2006

    I'm an avid listener. Audio books are a mini-vacation for me. They fill my "need to read" when I don't have time - which is most of the time. Great element of multi-tasking!

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    "Fascinating look at an ever-shrinking culture"

    Hasidic Jews typically keep themselves separate from everyone, including other Jews, so naturally, as a Protestant, I knew little about them, but have always been interested. Billed as a "memoir," this book presents Deborah Feldman's life as a Hasidic child, growing into a questioning (and thus, disobedient) woman in a narrative style that reads like good psychological fiction. I won't give away the ending so that you can enjoy this journey along with Deborah. I hope she continues to write, whether about her life or other topics.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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