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Unorthodox

The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots
Series: Unorthodox, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 39 mins
4.8 out of 5 stars (229 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Called “brave and riveting” by Jeannette Walls, Deborah Feldman’s New York Times best-selling memoir of escaping from a strict Hasidic community includes a new afterword by the author as well as the epilogues from the original 2012 editions detailing the circumstances of her life after leaving her husband and forging new beginnings for herself and her young son.

As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. Yet in spite of her repressive upbringing, Deborah grew into an independent-minded young woman whose stolen moments reading about the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott helped her to imagine an alternative way of life among the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at 19 and realized that, regardless of the obstacles, she would have to forge a path - for herself and her son - to happiness and freedom.

Remarkable and fascinating, this “sensitive and memorable coming-of-age story” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) is one you won’t be able to put down.

©2012 Deborah Feldman (P)2020 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about Unorthodox

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Debra Feldman's true life story

This is the novel on which the popular netflix mini series was based. More detail than the former.

3 people found this helpful

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Best book I have read all year!

Without a doubt the most incredible book I have read. Such an amazing story, well written and providing insight into a world very few would know about.

1 person found this helpful

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A very good book

I would highly recommend book.. Having watched the series, there is little the same in the book. However as a book it’s very interesting and total eye opener to a world that we would otherwise know nothing about.. it really shows the brain washing and the oppressive nature towards women and children. I wonder how this has been allowed to carry on.

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Powerful

This is such a powerful and emotional story. Engaging and raw, Unorthodox is a must read.

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I didn't finish

This book may well interest many. It is beautifully narrated but the subject could not my interest. Some of the names and words are better read with eyes than ears.

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incredible personal journey

This was an amazing story of a culture I never knew about. it was funny and scary at the same time. no person should be treated as the people are in this community.

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A world I had no idea about...until now

An incredibly well articulated from the very start of her life in the Hasidic up bringing. This story will stay with you, residually, for life, after listening to it.

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Memorising!!!😭 So glad she got her Happy ending.

This allowed me to get a glimpse of life in a world I could never have imagined.

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Interesting

A very interesting insight in to a world I had no knowledge of. Disturbing and distressing at times. Very gripping read.

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Like so many escapees

Like so many cult escapees this story feels a lot like them. It is my first real insight into the Jewish religion. I’ve read many stories of escapes from extremely religious family and Unorthodox is unique. There is no extreme abuse to the main character in Unorthodox but her personal struggle and questioning of what’s been told to her is human nature just as she said, other girls trying to blend in, be normal and unique. Feeling trapped in a situation or a cycle is one only strong willed women can break.

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  • Phyllis
  • 24-04-2020

Narrator Problem

The childish pitch of the reader voice was distracting, creating a petulant and girlish character that was likely unintended. Coupled with a few pronunciation issues (like inimitable accented incorrectly), the narrator made it difficult to hear the author’s true voice. That every character from the Satmar Hassidic world was drawn with such disdain was disturbing. Though I would not choose to live in the ultra-orthodox world, not every member of the community is ignorant or cruel or severely limited. I have no regrets about the time spent with Unorthodox, I have very mixed feelings about the underlying message.

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  • B. Sloan
  • 04-04-2020

Unbelievable

This was an amazing story. I just couldn’t believe all of the traditions. I watched the series first then decided I needed to read this book.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Chelsea Lensing
  • 19-03-2020

Such an inspiring and fascinating story.

So glad I listened to the book before the Netflix series comes out next week.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Rachel M
  • 08-04-2020

Interesting read - oppressive religion sect

Good read. Made me grateful to not be raised like this. Such contradictions, superstition, and misogyny. What cracks me up the most is how important it to not repeat the Holocaust, yet married women must shave their heads like concentration camp prisioners.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Kesha R. Abdul-Mateen
  • 04-04-2020

Captivating

I saw the Netflix show first and wanted to get away from the adaptation. Great story. I am glad Ms. Feldman found her own way.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Kathy-Jane
  • 04-05-2020

A Little Disappointing

I purchased this book right after watching the mini series on Netflix. I wanted to know more about the Hasidic community and thought the book would contain additional information and detail. I was surprised to find some very substantial differences between the book and the mini series on a number of points as well as in the sequence of events. There are things in the series that were not in the book. I accept this when works of fiction become movies but in real life stories? The book itself is simply written and simply told. The voice is young if not somewhat juvenile. it is not a riveting drama or expose and without having seen the mini series I would have been very disappointed. Having said that, I always wanted to know about those people I sometimes see in airports with strange clothes and the men with ringlets in their hair. I was amazed that a group could live such isolated and narrow lives in today's world, with their devotion to living by 18th century traditions. Wow.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Rosana Ghussin
  • 06-04-2020

Couldn’t put it down!

I saw Unorthodox the mini series first. I watched in one sitting. And was so curious about this foreign world. I too live in NY and I have seen Hasidic Jews without understanding their ways. However, always fascinated by what I heard of them but not believing. Unorthodox the book was no different. I could not stop “reading” in my case listening to the words. I highly recommended. And to Deborah and his son I wish all the best.

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  • Jennifer A Howard
  • 11-06-2020

The Netflix movie was better.

i was excited for the bbn book but the Netflix movie was better. The book was interesting but a bit boring.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth Steele
  • 16-05-2020

Fascinating, “raw” and well performed

Consider listening to this work before watching the Netflix series if possible .... the book is the author’s journey. The mini-series is the adaptation. There really should be no criticism directed at a person’s memories .... they may not be parallel to another’s experience but they are “true” for the writer. It’s important to keep that in mind as you listen. I found this memoir to be very interesting and, as noted in my review title “raw”. Consider that Ms Feldman wrote her manuscript just months after her exit from the only world she had ever known ... a world that she tried to fit into for years. Her risk was great and she had yet to discover if everything would work out for her and her son. She was still very much in the throws of the experience. A vulnerable and very intense place to be. The epilogue and the afterwards tie things together 10 years after the author wrote the book and also give a glimpse into the filming of the mini-series .... very insightful.

3 people found this helpful

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  • wanda
  • 15-05-2020

Very very good

Completely loved this book. Learned a lot about the Orthodox community. Very well written and insightful..

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-05-2020

Exceptional

Loved this amazing story. I watched the series on Netflix first which was really helpful in getting some background on the community. The story is different enough for the book to be a whole new experience. Both were fantastic. Highly recommend.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Terrier Mom
  • 12-07-2020

A brave but rather unlikeable author

The writing is overblown and flowery but I get that the author was young and had no experience as a writer at the time. The protagonist is conceited and delighted with herself and her abilities, and has no awareness of that, but I can't help suspecting that that is a product of the horrible life she led, one where women have no agency, are made to feel filthy at every pass and turn on each other like competing animals. Sort of like her fight back against that. The community strikes me as simply awful, but then it's the desperate and broken response to a truly horrific cultural and personal experience, that of the Holocaust. I feel that, as with any widespread oppression, the people were unforgiveably damaged; despite the unpleasant character of the survivor, to put one's head above the parapet and be counted, so to speak, is an act of great bravery...for that I applaud her. I just wish I could like her more. Still, the book is a page-turner - and to be able to do that at 23 or at any age is quite an achievement. I recommend it. And I'm glad so many are leaving this misogynistic community.

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  • Shelley
  • 17-04-2020

Gripping and enlightening

Worrying insight into the Hasidic community, highlighting the failings of many fundamentalist religions. I am a secular Jew so found the story particularly interesting. Well read.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Izzy
  • 12-04-2020

A relatable story to all woman

I feel all the woman in the world have something in common, regardless of religion, and that is that all of us have experienced abuse one way or the other, from the cousin in the basement to the stranger in a bus, we all can relate to the feeling of being powerless when facing abuse. This book have moved me to the core. I can easily count it as one of the best books I've ever read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kate N
  • 19-09-2020

excellent

I have really enjoyed listening to Unorthodox- such a personal and lasting story of one young woman

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  • Happy reader
  • 27-07-2020

Extraordinary story beautifully told

Read this after seeing the Netflix drama. It’s quite different and obviously far more detailed. Beautifully written and read. Personally I found the details of her early life in a community we don’t know much about utterly fascinating.

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  • Mrs G
  • 16-07-2020

Religion of many rules

I was always interested in the rules by which Hasidic community live. This book gives wonderful insight into what is like to be a part of it. The book is full of details and well written and read. This is one of audio books that can be listened to many times and I will listen to it again. I liked the use of Yiddish words and would have liked a dictionary of those words at the end. After listening to this one I am now really interested to find what is behind such a complicated way of life. There must be some ancient wisdom behind or at least explanations for various superstitions. The rules are probably followed in order to save lives thousands of years ago. The fact that Hasidic community still follows their old religion is on one hand admirable, but on the other ... well better to finish this review with unfinished sentence.

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  • Ateqa M
  • 08-07-2020

A truly moving story and a must read

Listening to Deborah's story is a revelation. Her account of growing up as a Hassidic woman has reverberations across the world. Her story is relatable to other stories of women that grow up in conservative societies that only expects them to be baby factories and good wives. It's a very insightful book in the inner workings of a fundamentalist society and the effects it has on someone that is intelligent enough to understand that keeping tradition doesn't justify the actions of its members. It's really satisfying to find that not giving up on your true self can lead to good things even if the process itself is painful. A truly wonderful book from a bright and resilient individual! You go girl!

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  • EmmabBooks
  • 29-06-2020

Insight into the lives and customs of Hasidic Jews

A wonderful memoir about being part of the New York Hasidic Jewish community, and how the author struggled against many of the strict rules and the lifestyle. Having watched Unorthodox on Netflix, I was drawn to this memoir to discover how much of the film version was true. I was glad I’d seen the film version first as it helped me visualise many of the events described, but the audio book went into so much more depth. Deborah Feldman describes her childhood and takes the listener right through to the current day (with the help of an Afterword). It is a fascinating look at the beliefs, customs and everyday life of this community, told from the point of view of someone who begins to question her beliefs and lifestyle, and eventually leaves the community. It took me about 30 minutes to get into the Audiobook, and having seen the film first definitely helped. Chapters are very long – about an hour listening time. However it is a fascinating listen. 5*s from me as it was so interesting to learn of a way of life, that I knew little about. Deborah Feldman’s story flowed well, and left me wondering, and surprised, at some of the strict rules in place, for example the prohibitions around book reading. Recommended listening for anyone interested in the lives and customs of those from different communities.

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  • Simoniukas
  • 18-06-2020

An amazing book.

After watching tv show this book showed much more details and gets more in to her life story and opened my eyes on different community's and belives