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Extended Audio Sample Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,227 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Deborah Feldman Narrator: Rachel Botchan Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, Unorthodox is a captivating memoir that takes listeners on an eye-opening journey into Orthodox Jewish culture and reveals a young woman determined to live her own life at any cost.

The Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism is as mysterious as it is intriguing to outsiders. In this arresting memoir, Deborah Feldman reveals what life is like trapped within a religious tradition that values silence and suffering over individual freedoms.

The child of a mentally disabled father and a mother who abandoned the community while her daughter was still a toddler, Deborah was raised by her strictly religious grandparents, Bubby and Zeidy. Along with a rotating cast of aunts and uncles, they enforced customs with a relentless emphasis on rules that governed everything from what Deborah could wear and to whom she could speak, to what she was allowed to read. As she grew from an inquisitive little girl to an independent-minded young woman, stolen moments reading about the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. She had no idea how to seize this dream that seemed to beckon to her from the skyscrapers of Manhattan, but she was determined to find a way.

The tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until, at the age of seventeen, she found herself trapped in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she had met for only thirty minutes before they became engaged. As a result, she experienced debilitating anxiety that was exacerbated by the public shame of having failed to immediately consummate her marriage and thus serve her husband. But it wasn’t until she had a child at nineteen that Deborah realized that more than just her own future was at stake and that, regardless of the obstacles, she would have to forge a path—for herself and her son—to happiness and freedom.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An unprecedented view into a Hasidic community that few outsiders ever experience. . . . Unorthodox reminds us that there are religious communities in the United States that restrict young women to marriage and motherhood. These women are expected to be obedient to their community and religion, without question or complaint, no matter the price.” 

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • “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.” 

    Huffington Post

  • “[A] nicely written memoir … [An] engaging and at times gripping insight into Brooklyn’s Hasidic community.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Riveting ... extraordinary.”

    Marie Claire

  • O Magazine’s “Books to Watch”
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Vicky | 2/19/2014

    " There is nothing special about this book, there were many others fictions and non-fictions that describe the narrow and suffocating life in close religious community. The author believes herself to be rebel, because she left the group. I remember reading books by Naomi Ragen on similar subject, but her being a very good writer, the effect is much bigger "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Panda | 2/14/2014

    " I found this book quite salacious in its descriptions of the marital bed and Hasidic customs of culturally denigrating women. The first part of the book is quite boring with endless descriptions of the grandmothers cooking etc. I wanted to hear more about the mother who left but the author is so immature and self involved the mothers story was never fleshed out. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Janet | 2/11/2014

    " I read this book based on a review I saw on television and, after waiting some time to get the book through my local library, I found it somewhat boring and a disappointment. In my opinion the book was written as a means to fund the author's leaving her Hasidic family. The book does provide some interesting information on the Hasidic Jews. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Vivien Ressler | 1/26/2014

    " This book is an easy read, although very disturbing it may be a wake up call for those who follow religious cult blindly. "

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