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In this moving book, Deen lays bare his difficult, muddled wrestling with his faith, the challenges it posed to everything...

A former member of an extremely insular Hasidic sect tells his story of becoming curious about the outside world—and the consequences of that curiosity.

Unpious magazine founding editor Deen was raised in the Hasidic sect known as “the Skverers,” an offshoot of Orthodox Judaism that shuns the outside world. Radio, TV, newspapers, the Internet—these are all gateways that, once opened, let forth a flood of sinful thought and action into one’s heart. The author knows the story of how New Square, in Rockland County, New York, came to be and the travails faced by those seeking to establish it; he knows that even among strict, rigid devotees of Judaism, New Square is considered a place where the real fanaticism takes place. Like some who went before him, Deen’s intellectual curiosity led him to pursuits considered borderline sacrilegious. As a young boy, he was scolded for reading Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume, and as an 11-year-old, he would sneak off to read Hardy Boys mysteries. Turning 13, however, meant putting those texts behind him and focusing more on religious studies. Deen did so, but his interest in the world outside New Square followed him into adulthood, marriage and children. In equal measure with his interest in how others lived was a growing dissatisfaction with some of the practices within the Skverers—how on one hand, the elders would speak of the importance of offspring, but when Deen’s children arrived, it was treated as irrelevant. When instructed as a teacher to fudge the progress reports—to ensure continued approval that they were teaching, along with religion, the arithmetic and reading required—to the government, the author felt this untruth to be a betrayal.

In this moving book, Deen lays bare his difficult, muddled wrestling with his faith, the challenges it posed to everything he thought he knew about himself, and the hard-won redemption he eventually found.

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55597-705-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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

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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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