Praise for Unorthodox
German-language reviews here.
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"Deborah Feldman was raised in an insular, oppressive world where she was taught that, as a woman, she wasn't capable of independent thought. But she found the pluck and determination needed to make the break from that world and has written a brave, riveting account of her journey. Unorthodox is harrowing, yet triumphant."
-- Jeannette Walls, #1 bestselling author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses
“[Feldman’s] matter-of-fact style masks some penetrating insights.”
"It's just unbelievable that this is a real story... And how she gets out and figures out how to live on her own. It's just, my god, fascinating. You think: Would I have been able to do that? I'm all for loose clothing, that I could do, but everything else? It's one of those books you read and can't put down."
-- Joan Rivers, Comedian and author of I Hate Everyone, Starting with Me
"[Deborah Feldman's] is an extraordinary story of struggle and dream.. Both her escape and her decision to tell her story are magnificent acts of courage."
-- Anouk Markovits, author of I Am Forbidden, full review here.
"[Feldman's] book movingly captures the feeling of living with a secret self."
- Tova Mirvis, author of The Ladies Auxiliary
-- Marie Claire
"Deborah Feldman has stripped the cloak off the insular Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, offering outsiders the rare glimpse into the ultraconservative world in which she was raised."
-- Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"Unorthodox is consistently engaging. And the very fact of it is touching. For years . . . [Feldman] examined library shelves, marveling that there were so many men and women who believed in their ‘innate right . . . to speak their mind in whatever way they saw fit.’ That she has joined their ranks is remarkable indeed.”
-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“[Feldman’s] no-holds-barred memoir hits bookstores on February 14th. And it’s not exactly a Valentine to the insular world of shtreimels, sheitels and shtiebels. Instead, [Unorthodox] describes an oppressive community in which secular education is minimal, outsiders are feared and disdained, English-language books are forbidden, mental illness is left untreated, abuse and other crimes go unreported . . . a surprisingly moving, well-written and vivid coming-of-age tale.”
"[Unorthodox] provides a window into a world not many of us know about or can fathom. [Feldman's] story, slow at first, invites us into the homes and mindsets of the Satmar people, at times wholesome and warm and at others lonely, shocking, and disturbing. Feldman is reflective, never mincing words, saying exactly how she feels about everything. For a woman with little formal secular education, her writing is eloquent and stirring. The book is worth a read."
-- Jewish Book Council
“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. Feldman bravely lays her soul bare, unflinchingly sharing intimate thoughts and ideas unthinkable within the deeply religious existence of the Satmars. . . . Teens will devour this candid, detailed memoir of an insular way of life so unlike that of the surrounding society.”
—School Library Journal
“Feldman gives us special insight into a closed and repressive world…Her memoir is fresh and tart and utterly absorbing.”
“Nicely written memoir…Feldman offers this engaging and at
times gripping insight into Brooklyn’s Hasidic community.”
“A remarkable tale.”
Praise for Exodus
"Feldman chronicles the next phase of her life in her new book [Exodus], a quest of self-discovery. Some of the most powerful scenes come when Feldman retraces the path of her female ancestors in Hungary and confronts the anti-Semitism of contemporary Europe [in] moving observations. Feldman ultimately discovers that her rightful place is wherever she happens to be.”
—The New York Times Book Review
"In 2012′s Unorthodox, Feldman broke free of the strict Hasidic community she’d been raised in, and that had engineered the loveless marriage she could no longer abide. Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike found Feldman's account of her loveless marriage and her painful experiences in the Satmar community gripping and well-written. Exodus, an absorbing new memoir, finds her foundering as an outcast, trading her native Brooklyn for the country, and searching for herself in a world where she’s only ever been identified by her community. She also offers fascinating insights into her ideas and feelings about what Judaism now means to her. This tale of self-actualization against all odds will make for an inspiring summer read."
-- Barnes and Noble Blog
“[Feldman] continues her compelling story in “Exodus," written with bracing candor and rawness. Her emotionally packed narrative
voice keenly captures the racing mindset of a young fragile person who is alone
and lonely; uncomfortable with others. Initially filled with longing and bitter confusion; slowly gives way to
the first nuggets of adult wisdom, and perhaps even the beginnings of
forgiveness and acceptance. She does not present herself as a heroic
figure and that is what is so threatening about her story to those she left
behind as numerous blog posts reveal. She simply claims her own truth,
aware that it is hers alone. She presents her open wounds and scars, and
tries to understand the internal hurts other people carry. Deborah Feldman
reminds me of Lena Dunham’s autobiographically based “Hannah” on the hit HBO
series “Girls.” Both have tremendous creative
abilities of self-expression that have the capacity to save them or smother
-- Jewish Journal
“Feldman is back...with Exodus, a
satisfying sequel to Unorthodox, which shows how Feldman went on to use her newfound freedom. It’s a memoir that serves as a chronicle of a continuing
journey of self-discovery, where from Hungary, to Germany to across the United
States, she finds out not only her Jewish roots (and the massive tragedy that
was the Holocaust), but also the cold reality of how widespread anti-Semitism
is in today’s world. There are many satisfying finds and revelations along the
road, but there are also plenty of bumps, frustrations, disappointments and
pitfalls, which is expected when one spends their formative years being closed
off from the rest of the outside world, and is confined to the boundaries of a
Brooklyn neighborhood. Exodus is about the liberation of Deborah Feldman, and that can
be a shock to some, or a declaration of independence for others.”
-- Montreal Times
"Rich in details of Jewish life and the lives of her grandparents in the World War II era, the author sensitively portrays the inner struggles of accepting the pervasive feeling of survivor guilt and her own desires to understand the woman she was becoming. Feldman juxtaposes painfully emotional moments in concentration camps and in European towns where evidence of Jewish settlers was practically erased with humorous, almost macabre playacting scenarios with a German lover, scenarios that only added to Feldman's confusion over her own identity. The overall effect is captivating, entertaining and informative, providing readers with an honest assessment of the strength of one's convictions and the effect a strict religious background can have on a person.
An enthralling account of how one Orthodox Jewish woman turned her back on her religion and found genuineness and validity in her new life."
-- Kirkus Reviews, full review here.
In this follow-up to her New York Times–best-selling memoir Unorthodox (2012), Feldman positions herself as the quintessential wandering Jew. Exodus tells the story of Feldman’s journey of self-discovery, which takes her from the American South to the Jewish ghettos of Old World Europe. Along the way, Feldman both meets and is alienated by Jews and Gentiles alike, falls in and out of love with a redneck (complete with motorcycle and shotgun collections), travels across continental Europe, and visits the tiny Hungarian village where her ancestors were born, always trying to find her own sense of identity separate from the strict Hasidic sect in which she was raised. Feldman’s journey is undeniably and explicitly Jewish, but the aching need to find both a welcoming community and a sense of individuality is one that readers from all walks of life will be able to identify with. Those left unsatisfied with the abrupt ending to Unorthodox will enjoy the more hopeful conclusion to Feldman’s second book as well as her more mature and increasingly eloquent writing style.
"Captivating in a completely different way... I was fascinated to see what happened to her. The short answer: She's figuring things out. It's complicated."
-- Bustle (Best books of 2014)
“Exodus wanders, much like Feldman herself, in a series
of essay-like chapters... This book is more comic, including hair-raising
adventures with conservative Christians in Texas.
Frankly, it’s a miracle that Feldman can function at all, let alone write two riveting memoirs that do not drip with bitterness. Part of the appeal of Unorthodox is a vivid look into the daily life of a highly insular community and the strength it takes to leave it all behind. Exodus is a story of a young woman coming into her own... The meaning of the name Deborah in Hebrew can mean “woman who speaks.” You will be so glad Deborah Feldman has found her voice.”
"Feldman richly describes her triumph following her "escape" from a restrictive way of life."backward... Exodus tracks her travels through Europe as she follows the path of her grandmother, a survivor of the concentration camps, and grapples with the ways in which she herself could be called a survivor.
Exodus is a companion piece to Unorthodox, and while it's not necessary to read both memoirs in chronological order, those who have read one will likely want to read the other. Exodus has the feel of a coming-of-age story, tracing the protagonist's steps toward self-discovery. It meanders at times and feels somewhat unresolved in the end, leaving the reader with a sense that Feldman is still at the beginning of her self-reformation, still searching and sorting out. She's not yet 30, so that seems right."
Feldman traces her efforts to establish a life for herself
and her son free of the judgments and ghosts of her past. The journey recounted
here is one of many actual miles, as well as through many lifestyles, in this
tale of self-discovery. The notoriety of her first book ensures that many
readers will be eager to discover whether she finds happiness outside the
community of her heritage."
-- Library Journal
Amazon Best Books of the Month pick for March 2014
Voted one of the top 10 memoirs of 2014 by Publisher's Weekly