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wealhtheow

wealhtheow

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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots - Deborah Feldman The story of one woman growing up as a Hasidic Jew in Williamsburg. The opening chapters, comprising Feldman's childhood, are strong and interesting. But once she gets older, the story starts running into problems.

First of all, it seems a little generic: Feldman's problems with Hasidism and her Satmar relatives are the exact same ones commonly talked about in the media (such as sexual ignorance, mocking "immodestly" dressed women, the shunning of survivors of sexual abuse, disliking her "Jewish" nose and wishing to be blond&blue-eyed, etc). Obviously I have no way of knowing the truth, but I was a little suspicious with some of the anecdotes that Feldman shared, because they were so perfectly stereotypical and uncomplicated. She recounts seeing a young black man get beaten up by a bunch of Hasidic men who blame him for a recent burglary, for instance, but the tale seems told by rote, without any distinguishing details. I was more interested by the cultural nuances not displayed in news headlines, like her grandmother's cooking, the gift exchanging period between young people who are engaged, or the details of a mikveh.

The other problem I had with this story is that the ending gets very vague. She says she leaves the Hasidic community and starts living on her own in New York, but there's no information on whether this was hard or easy for her, where she got the money to do so, or what it felt like to be suddenly cut off from a culture, community, and family she's been embedded in all her life. This book seems to have been written very shortly after leaving, and I think perhaps with more distance from the subject she could have done it more justice.