Title: Unorthodox: The scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots
Author: Deborah Feldman
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
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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.
Many people recommended the new Netflix miniseries Unorthodox to me. When I learned that it was loosely based on a book, I knew I need to read the book first.
Unorthodox is a memoir written by a woman who escaped an isolated community of Hasidic Jews, she was brought up in the strict religious code of her family beliefs. The older she got, the more dissatisfied with her life she became. She felt restricted, she couldn’t truly be herself. After an arranged marriage she managed to escape the watchful eyes of her Williamsburg community and live more freely. But that still was not what she wanted for herself. I read some reviews saying she is coming off as whiny in the book, I personally didn’t feel like it. I understood that the life that was created for her was not something she wanted, she couldn’t keep living the life according to Hasidic rules. Even though she was able to get away with some indiscretions that seemed sinful in the eyes of her religion, it was ll still ‘getting away’ with it. She wanted to just do what she wanted without feeling guilty because she wants to read books, wear jeans a get an education.
The book was extremely interesting, it presented a lot of Hasidic cultures I wasn’t aware of. I cannot judge the religion, but I can tell that I would have similar feelings about it as the author. Such life would be hard for me, but I hope that every one that is in the religion gains the best out of it.
For me, the first half of the book is much stronger than the second. Her married life and eventual escape were not so well presented and I feel like a lot was left unsaid. Especially how she divorced her husband and got custody of her child.