UNORTHODOX

THE SCANDALOUS REJECTION OF MY HASIDIC ROOTS

A remarkable tale told somewhat unremarkably.

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.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-8700-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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