Unorthodox: My Rambling Review
I know I am late to the game. Everyone was reading this book last year. I generally don’t read non-fiction. Real life is hard enough without having to read the trials and tribulations of real people.
I was at the library looking for a biography to take home for the KoD to read and happened across Deborah Feldman’s book. I figured if I really hated it I would put it down in the middle, and move on. I hate not finishing books, but sometimes they need to be ignored.
There are a lot of OTD (Off the Derech – no longer religious) blogs out there that I read occasionally. Abandoning Eden, Unpious, OTD, to name a few – they all bring different viewpoints to the table. Some have made their peace with the world they left behind, some will spend the rest of their lives justifying the way they live their lives – to themselves and others. I can’t even begin to comment – I am still religious, and though at various different times I have contemplated throwing it all away, I stayed, because to me, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. It’s such a personal thing though, and everyone needs to do what’s best for them.
What bothered me when I started reading Unorthodox was the disclaimer at the front of the book stating that names and identifying characteristics have been changed, “events compressed, consolidated, or reordered” basically to protect everyone she talks about. Her picture is on the flap of the back cover. Anyone who is remotely related to her or knows her will easily be able to put two and two together and figure out about whom she is writing. Either write a piece of fiction or an accurate biography.
I will say, for someone who says she had a poor secular education, the book was written better than I thought it would be. That being said, it read like a teenage memoir and not the work of a 20-something student.
I feel for her. I do. She is from an extremely dysfunctional family – so no matter how hard she tried she would never fit in with the rest of the society in which she lived. I have no personal knowledge of the Satmar community, so it is unfair for me to weigh in on the accuracy in which they have been portrayed.
The book takes us through her life from about the age of twelve – school, and puberty, engagement, marriage, birth of her son, and her eventual leaving of her community and her life as a religious female.
By the end of the book, I was feeling sorry for Feldman, even a little heartbroken. She grew up lost, and to my mind, is still lost. I read a book of facts. I wanted to read more of how she felt. Not just how liberating it was to uncover her hair, and to don a pair of jeans (BTDT – it does feel great) but how did it feel inside to know that she was walking away from everything she knew?
I was left with even more questions – does her son see his father? How do they deal with the dichotomy of their two worlds? How will she ever allow him to read this book that details the lack of consummation of her marriage and the subsequent effort it took to do the deed? Does any child ever need to read that about his parents? What’s her plan for the future? Does she have any Judaism in her life? Does she believe in God? The book ended abruptly, as if she was fed up with writing it – there needed to be a chapter or two more.
I think that she was dealt a raw hand with the parents she had (according to the way they were described in the book) and anyone, no matter to what community they belonged, would have had a hard time and be emotionally marked. Add the religious factor in – I believe it just exacerbated the issues, instead of helping to guide Feldman into finding her own path.
Since her book has been published there have been many rumours flying around – that she has a younger sister who wasn’t mentioned in the book, that her father is not mentally ill etc. Because this was a memoir and not a work of fiction I am curious to know the truth.
I wish her well – the path that she has chosen to take is not an easy one. Raising a child as a single mother is extremely tough – she has my prayers (whether they are wanted or not).
Have you read this book? What did you think?