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Sunday, April 17, 2016

"UNorthodox" by Deborah Feldman

This memoir is a harrowing tale of a woman in search of freedom.  The author was raised in a Hasidic community, which is one of the strictest ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities there is.  There are extensive rules covering almost all aspects of life from what to eat, where to go, who to marry, and more.  Readers understand the interactions between men and women, the extreme modesty rules, and how arranged marriages work.  They also understand the limited education and censorship that goes on.  While not all readers will be Hasids leaving their old lives behind, there are many universal messages for all readers.  There is the universal desire for freedom, to break out of the molds one's family / society has placed upon them.  There is the lesson that, no matter how long the skirt or how loose the dress, there will always be men who lust after you.  There is the lesson that even the most religious and pious-looking communities have gossip, violence, pedophilia, and other "bad things and bad people."  While the author eventually leaves with her son to start a new life, her marriage is sad.  Before getting a divorce, the reader is stuck in a loveless marriage with a man who only wants her for her body.  While most readers will likely not be in arranged marriages such as this, I am sure there are women stuck with men who do not love them but rather only use them for their body.  For all those women, there is something better out there for you.  The story ends while the author is still a young woman, and she finds fulfillment in her child and career.  For any woman struggling with finding purpose, wrestling with religious identity, or just looking for a good read, this book is sure to broaden perspectives and have compassion on the "others" knows as Hasids...especially the women.  

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