Deborah Feldman was raised in the Satmar Hasidic community in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. She lives in Berlin with her son.
Born into the insular and exclusionary Hasidic community of Satmar in Brooklyn to a mentally disabled father and a mother who fled the sect, Feldman, as she recounts in this nicely written memoir, seemed doomed to be an outsider from the start. Raised by devout grandparents who forbade her to read in English, the ever-curious child craved books outside the synagogue teaching. Feldman's spark of rebellion started with sneaking off to the library and hiding paperback novels under her bed. Her boldest childhood revolution: she buys an English translation of the Talmud, which would otherwise be kept from her, so that she might understand the prayers and stories that are the fabric of her existence. At 17, hoping to be free of the scrutiny and gossip of her circle, she enters into an arranged marriage with a man she meets once before the wedding. Instead, having received no sex education from a culture that promotes procreation and repression simultaneously, she and her husband are unable to consummate the relationship for a year. The absence of a sex life and failure to produce a child dominate her life, with her family and in-laws supplying constant pressure. She starts to experience panic attacks and the stirrings of her final break with being Hasidic. It's when she finally does get pregnant and wants something more for her child that the full force of her uprising takes hold and she plots her escape. Feldman, who now attends Sarah Lawrence College, offers this engaging and at times gripping insight into Brooklyn's Hasidic community. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A brave, riveting account... Unorthodox is harrowing, yet
- Jeannette Walls, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle
"A sensitive and memorable coming-of-age story... Imagine Frank McCourt as a Jewish virgin, and you've got Unorthodox in a nutshell."
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Compulsively readable, Unorthodox relates a unique coming-of-age story that manages to speak personally to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in her own life."
- School Library Journal
"It's one of those books you can't put down."
- Joan Rivers, in The New York Post
"An unprecedented view into a Hasidic community that few outsiders ever experience."
- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[Feldman's] matter-of-fact style masks some penetrating insights."
- The New York Times
"Eloquent, appealing, and just emotional enough... No doubt girls all over Brooklyn are buying this book, hiding it under their mattresses, reading it after lights out-and contemplating, perhaps for the first time, their own escape."
- The Huffington Post
- Marie Claire