2012 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Published February 14, 2012 by Simon and Schuster
Few things make me happy like a memoir by a woman who busted out of oppressive circumstances and left everything she knew behind in order to build a new life for herself. In Deborah Feldman’s case, the oppressive circumstances came courtesy of the Hasidic Jewish community in which she was brought up in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Taught that a woman’s place is in the home and removed from school after eleventh grade–after all, education only makes women feisty and disobedient–Feldman entered into an arranged marriage at the age of 17.
A lifelong rebel, Feldman hoped the marriage would be an escape from her stifling household. She dreamed of being able to keep her books, usually secreted home from the library and hidden behind her dresser, out in the open, and imagined her husband recognizing her intellect and agreeing to let her take college-level courses and pursue some kind of career outside the home. Alas, that was far from what she got, and after several years of humiliation–she and her husband knew next to nothing about sex going into their marriage, and by the time they succeeded in consummating it, nearly everyone in their immediate circle of family and friends knew intimate and embarrassing details–she decided she was finished. Inspired by the strong women in her favorite books and the feminist theory she learned in classes she was taking on the sly, Feldman took her son and left.
Now just two years into her life in the secular world, she documents her childhood and reveals surprising–and often disturbing–details about the beliefs and practices that govern Satmar Hasidism. Unorthodox is bold, brave, and inspiring down to the very last word. I tore through it in one sitting, and if you can’t resist a peek behind a sacred curtain, you will, too. Make a note to pick up Unorthodox when it comes out next week, and watch this space for an interview with Deborah Feldman.