Like a surgeon cutting into human flesh for the first time, Eve Harris audaciously dissects a community defined by inscrutable social mores; her profoLike a surgeon cutting into human flesh for the first time, Eve Harris audaciously dissects a community defined by inscrutable social mores; her profound reverence for her characters in no way hinders her intrepid plunge into the murky viscera of this complex world. Readers will be mesmerized by Harris's unforgettable voice; this powerful debut novel is a startling and effervescent contribution to a canon much in need of enrichment....more
Ava Chin’s memoir has forever altered my relationship with nature; as a city girl I finally grasp the concept of finding oneself in the woods. The aut Ava Chin’s memoir has forever altered my relationship with nature; as a city girl I finally grasp the concept of finding oneself in the woods. The author forages through her past much in the same way she hunts for mushrooms, tenderly, with an almost worshipful respect for the delicate process of unearthing one’s true self; the hidden treasure lying buried under the debris of everyday existence. She confronts the pain of her own past with language made stunningly brave in its simplicity and directness. I was left feeling awed by her courageous honesty and thrilled by her story of self-made redemption. It was not long after that I found myself on my first solitary hike – and hardly a coincidence when I recognized wood-ear then, even in the dead of winter. Ava has inspired me to look deeper than the surface, both internally and externally, and I have a feeling she will convert many an urban dweller to the joys of “Eating Wildly.” ...more
This novel is truly a seminal work on the topic of Jewish Fundamentalism. With unparalleled detail and poignant storytelling, this saga of a Satmar faThis novel is truly a seminal work on the topic of Jewish Fundamentalism. With unparalleled detail and poignant storytelling, this saga of a Satmar family explores and debunks the myths upon which the extreme version of Judaism we know today was founded, and it does so with a resounding clang. I found myself gripping the edge of my seat quite a few times, holding my breath while I waited to see how the characters in this novel would find self-determination. People will read this novel both because it is a beautiful story told in a magical setting, and because it completely unravels a world heretofore tightly enclosed. I extend my deepest gratitude and admiration for Anouk Markovits, who so skillfully brought my world to life, and abolished the mysteries that remained of my childhood. ...more
As a former member of the Hasidic community myself, I often find literature written by outsiders lacking in accuracy and depth, so I was pleasantly suAs a former member of the Hasidic community myself, I often find literature written by outsiders lacking in accuracy and depth, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only did Shaer get his facts perfectly straight, but he delved so vigorously into the fabric of the Crown Heights community that even I was able to learn something new about it.
Although I have relatives in the Lubavitch sect (in fact, one of the characters in this book is my uncle) and I spent some time in Crown Heights as a child, my orientation was always Satmar, and because Hasidic communities are intensely private, there is a lot that other Hasids don't know about the Lubavitch sect. What we do know is that they are the only Messianic sect, something that other Jews see as an affront against God and the Hasidic tradition. For this reason, the Lubavitcher Hasids are very cautious about the image they present to the public, and messiah-related talk is usually restricted to the very inner circle. Learning about how that inner-circle operates was fascinating even to me, already overly-acquainted with the convoluted workings of Hasidic society. Messianic Judaism is a mysterious and mesmerizing topic; although such movements have occurred occasionally in our history it had always been difficult for me to understand how a cult of personality could grow out of a religion that goes out of its way to warn against such a phenomenon. Still, after reading this book, I can see the logic and machinations behind such an enterprise; I can understand the seductiveness of a subtly shifting message.
It amazes me that Shaer was able to pull off such an intimate and thorough portrayal of this world, although it is a testament to his sensitivity as a journalist; he conducted interviews with key people in a very skilled way, and he was obviously made to feel somewhat comfortable while doing so. He retains complete objectivity throughout the narrative, without ever making you think about it; good and bad are lined up alongside each other without judgement. However, the language is forthright and the narrative fast-paced, propelling you very quickly along the path to discovery. I found my perspective on this community changing and deepening in ways I did not expect. In the end, I realized that the combination of insider knowledge and outsider views came together in this book to create a multidimensional portrait of a world that is often seen as black and white.
This book is a raw, blood-pumping journey through the past and present-day world of Crown Heights. It follows the painful details of a religious feud; the men participating in the fracas are at once exalted warriors of God and bodies surging with testosterone-fueled blood lust. You'll be tempted to read it in one sitting, but you'll also want to take the time to absorb the smartly condensed pieces on historical background offered up between the tensely drawn action scenes. They are immensely informative and unlike some other, more academic texts, they are blessedly free of scholarly verbiage and other such runaround that I am accustomed to seeing in similar works. I can't recommend this enough; to my readers out there who are looking for more literature on the Hasidic community that won't overlap with my own story but will provide just as much accuracy and satisfying detail, read about Matthew Shaer's adventures "Among Righteous Men."...more
This book is truly incandescent. When it comes to memoirs, if the plot doesn't follow the traditional "here is my sensational story" line, I'm reluctaThis book is truly incandescent. When it comes to memoirs, if the plot doesn't follow the traditional "here is my sensational story" line, I'm reluctant to dig in. Too often, ordinary people's memoirs are drawn out self examinations that are only interesting to the author. However this book draws the reader in on so many levels. After reading this I feel inspired and moved. Dubus paints beautiful scenes; even as he tells his life story he weaves little novellas one after another, each moment strong enough to stand out on its own, vivid in your mind. I was in awe of each masterful paragraph. Aside from producing extremely creative, literary nonfiction, Dubus discusses themes I would never have otherwise bothered to read about in a beautifully intelligent way. I don't often get to see this side of the world from such a perspective. He really shows the gray areas very well, and this book opened my mind in many ways. I became really invested in all the characters in the book and I still remember them well. If there's one thing I can say in critique of it, it is to echo a review of this book that I read recently: At times, when the writer is aiming for brutal self-analysis, it can seem a bit trite. But I'll take that over most memoirs any day.