Monday, October 14, 2013

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

Being very small and very young, the only power Matilda had over anyone in her family was brainpower –Roald Dahl

Why I read this book?

I heard about this book last year, and I'm a sucker for memoirs. My boyfriend gave me the book for Christmas, but unfortunately I couldn't start it before now.

What's the book about?

The book tells us the story of Deborah Feldman, from very young age until the moment she left her Hasidic community. She tells us about different traditions and things that are taken from granted in such community.

What about the main character?

At first I liked Feldman’s voice and found her childhood story very touching and very compelling. However, as she grew up I found her less and less sympathetic. She portrays herself as someone very critic since she was a child, even when this criticism will get her in a lot of trouble with her family.

Final thoughts

The book is not a bad book, but is not great either. Let’s start with the things I did enjoy. I liked the insight views from the community. I like to learn about other’s traditions and off course is always better when you learn through a person that lived them and knows the thought behind it. I like the rhythm of the story and I liked Deborah as a child.

I did not like however that as she grew up and supposedly she grew more and more conscious of the things bothering her from her community, she victimizes her more and more; it felt a bit like she wanted people to feel pity for her. While I can only imagine how hard it has to be to change your life so radically as she did, I would’ve expected her take a more powerful voice, and not to portray herself as someone that seemed weaker as a woman than as a child. Also, and this is just me being a scientist reading a non-fiction book, there are some items that seems way too farfetched for me (the shingles infection for example).

I would’ve appreciated a glossary, since she uses a lot of Yiddish words. Sometimes she explains them but other she just mentions them, and while it is possible to infer the meaning from the context I would found myself misunderstanding the sentence once in a while if I didn’t look up the word.

Again, I cannot know how hard it was for her to change her life the way she did it, but I think she would have a more compelling case if the book read more like an empowering journey.

In the physics of imagination, this is the rule: a child can only accept a just world

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