Unorthodox : the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots

From Ginny Pisciotta
Author:  Deborah Feldman
Unorthodox : the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots
Unorthodox is a gripping memoir of girl growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a member of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism. Her father was mentally retarded and her mother left the sect when she was very young, so she was raised by her paternal grandparents.

Devoireh (Deborah) is an independent thinker and never fit into the lifestyle she was born into.  As a child she would sneak into the library and bring home forbidden book “English” books which she had to hide.  She had high hopes for her arranged marriage at age 17, but marriage brought a new set of problems. At 19, Devoirah gave birth to her son.

Devoireh managed to achieve more independence after they moved upstate where the Satmar community wasn’t so vigilant.  She learned to drive and started attending classes at Sarah Lawrence College.  She took more and more steps toward the life she desired for herself and her son, until eventually she left the world she grew up in behind.

This memoir was particularly interesting to me because it gave me an inside look at a community I only saw from the outside as a gentile growing up in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

The themes in this story are universal as many different kinds of people find themselves ill-suited to the culture or lifestyle they are in.  Many have to make the decision between following their dreams or pleasing those around them.  Many  have to choose between thinking for themselves or letting others think for them.  This a book that speaks to all these people, no matter what culture they are a part of.

Brooklyn : a novel

From Alicja Feitzinger
author: Colm Toibin
Brooklyn : a novel
Eilis Lacey grew up in a small Irish town. Her father passed away a few years ago, her brothers immigrated to England and she lives with her mother, deep in the shadow of her charismatic sister Rose. She is attending bookkeeping classes at a local vocational school. She is more preoccupied with her studies than with her appearance.  At one of the dances she meets Jim Farrell, who is rude to her. She also learns a bitter lesson of human prejudice  while working in a local shop for cool and calculating Miss Kelly.

At this point, an offer to move to Brooklyn is presented to her and she agrees to embark on a journey to a foreign land.  She works and studies in Brooklyn while living in a boarding house.  Most unexpectedly, she falls in love with Tony, but devastating news from Ireland  brings her back home for a long visit, where she is faced with most difficult choices. 

This is a very quiet, but touching novel, full of interesting and believable characters. It targets dilemmas of human heart, common to all immigrants and people who moved away from their hometown.