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I am Forbidden

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  5,523 ratings  ·  837 reviews
A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular Hasidic sect, the Satmar.
     Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbidden brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.
     Opening in 1939 Transylvania,
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Hogarth
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  5,523 ratings  ·  837 reviews

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Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a disturbing book. Once I started listening to the audiobook, excellently narrated by Rosalyn Landor, I could do nothing else but listen to more and more ......and more still, until I reached the end! If I am to set the star rating by how urgent it was to read the book once I started, it would get five stars. But I am not giving it five stars, only four. I had to listen because I was so disturbed. I had to listen because in the beginning it was confusing. I even had to listen to the firs ...more
Deborah Feldman
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This 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 becau ...more
Moira Russell
And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

Well shit, I was totally not expecting that twist at the end. KAPOW.

I gobbled this up in one evening and -- I don't think it's a novel per se? (yeah I know that is such a useless categorization when you have books like the Odyssey and David Markson) -- it was more like a very long tale by a storyteller, or a c
Rachelle Urist
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Women’s friendships

Markovits writes of a Romanian Jewish community during World War II. They are from the Satmar sect and have very strict beliefs and traditions. There are two sets of parents, one trying to flee to safety and another attacked in their home, are murdered by fascists. Left behind are two children, one from each family, each is rescued. The boy is adopted by the family maid. She’s a Christian and tries to keep him safe by teaching him to ‘pass’ by adopting Christianity and pretend
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I started this book on Friday morning and I had to make myself put it down to go to bed Friday night. I then ignored my wife Saturday morning to finish. I raced through this book because I loved the two main(ish) female characters; their world might have been alien to me but I felt like I knew them, and I had to know where they ended up.

This is essentially a family saga, beginning around World War II and ending in about 2007. Starting in Romania in the late 1920s, the story roughly follows two J
Chris Blocker
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am mystified by meandering rivers. I've never seen one in person, but I've seen photos and these have grabbed my attention. Part of what makes these rivers so beautiful are their wide arcs back and forth. If you were on any point of one of these rivers, you'd see things differently. You might, at first, think the river that flowed parallel to yours was a different river that would eventually merge with your own.

Much in the same way, I Am Forbidden meanders through scenery that is beautiful hea
Good Book Fairy
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaica
This book took me by surprise as my hopes for it were entirely to low. Perhaps it's because I've read many books about the Hasidic Sect of Judaism but this book steps very far apart from those I've read before. This author can write and it's seems that based on her own personal history, she writes what she knows.
Although there was a slightly elusive beginning to this book and I felt like I was lost, it took no time to grab me and suck me in to this fanatical world of the Hasidic sect called the
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it
As eastern Europe is fractured during World War II, the Satmar Rebbe of Transylvania makes a miraculous escape to America and begins building a new community in the Williambsurg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York; meanwhile, those of his Transylvanian followers who survive the war are dispersed throughout Europe. Zalman Stern, his wife Hannah, and their growing family end up in Paris, where they are eventually joined by two young orphans. Josef was the only survivor of the brutal murder of his f ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Those who read The Chosen will find some similarities here: there's a scholar prodigy, gematria, questioning of long-held beliefs, and the transition of a Hasidic group from Eastern Europe to America. However, here the author a better knowledge and understanding about Hassidism and Judaism than I suspect most people will have. For example, Hasids originally opposed the formation of the State of Israel and were anti-Zionism. That's not so say there isn't some explanation (eg, complete immersion t ...more
reading is my hustle
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
What do you do when religious law and life collide? This is a disquieting story about two young girls who have very different reactions to their religious upbringing. Beautiful, tender, and SO HEARTBREAKING. As I mentioned after reading, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, understanding the beginnings of the Hasidic movement makes these stories/characters much more tragic.

I have both read and heard tell that some believe this to be autobiographical. So? Either way, Anouk M
Bonnie Brody
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits is a brilliant, poetic novel that begins during World War II in eastern Europe and ends in contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

During World War II, two children become orphaned. One, a young boy named Josef, loses his parents and sister to storm troopers and is adopted by a peasant woman in Translylvania. Her name is Florina and the two of them forge a loving bond. She renames him Anghel and baptizes him to protect him from the Nazis. In yet another scene, a you
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of fine literature
I chose to read Anouk Markovits’ I Am Forbidden because of the blurb about the writer on the back inside flap. I am fascinated by stories of people who belong to fundamentalist religious sects (which religion is not relevant) and who leave those sects because it seems they are more taken with the inclusive world of literature than with intense study of their own religious sect. Markovits grew up in France as part of the ultra-religious Satmar sect of Judaism. She left that community at the age o ...more
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

This novel elicited a few different and emotional reactions from me.  First of all, I had some difficulty following the plot initially, I believe due to my unfamiliarity with the history and the foreign (to me) names.  The beauty of the writing, paired with my personal beliefs, caused the varied emotional responses.  Initially, I felt increased compassion for the characters and increased understanding of the Hasidic experience.  As the story continued, I experien
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This was a compelling read right from the get-go. Although there is a 1-page prologue set in 2005, the story really begins in 1939 in Transylvania. The physical violence at the beginning of this section is hard to read, even though it is less graphic than others I've read. It is real, however, and made me tense. But the war ends, and the story continues with the survivors.

It seems there is no freedom for these people. The soul, in order to pass onto the next life, is dependent on the body behavi
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star, 2012
I wasn't sure where the story was going to go at first, but I was drawn in by the crispness of the writing and the fullness of the characters. Even though none of them are overly-descirbed, these are people you have hopes for and want them to find happiness.
The synopsis is a bit misleading as the story continues only with Mila once Atara makes a fateful decision. She doesn't reappear until almost the end of the story. We get only the life among the Hasid. I think that works well be
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks
The book is a great discussion book but it bothered me. There were points that I didn't want to listen anymore. I believe that Mila suffered from mental illness. I am not sure why Joseph led the life that he did. Lack of communication in any culture causes disaster! A minor issue- in the beginning of the book Joseph is 5 years old and all of a sudden he is 12. There is plenty of foreshadowing, so you kind of know what's coming. It doesn't make it any better! ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my friends
Recommended to Cindie by: goodreads giveaway
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teresa Lukey
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: listened
I Am Forbidden follows three-generations of a Hasidic Jewish family. Starting in Romania under the Iron Guard movement and finishing in the Satmar Hasidic community established in Williamsburg, New York. Hasidism is a strict religion rooted in the Torah. Their day-to-day lives are lived based on the interpretation of this book and everything is done in such a fashion to ensure that all family members in the same blood line have a place by the messiah's side. There are many activities deemed ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits was a fascinating read. There are moments of great sorrow and horror in the opening pages, as two young children survive the pogroms in Transylvania in 1939 and their lives intersect. Then, the story takes us beyond the war, into the heart of the Satmar Hasidic community and their adherence to the strictest orthodoxy and distrust of Zionism. I haven't read much about Judaic fundamentalism before, and at heart it isn't different from any other fundamentalism, but ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really found this book to be emotional and it really pulled me in. It made me think about what life could be like in a different culture or religion. I found it to be very interesting. It explained some aspects of the Hasidic Jewish faith and how the people were treated during World War II. It was a wonderful story that made me feel for the characters in the book.
It starts out in World War II with the Jews being taken on trains to the concentration camps. There was the story of the boy who wat
Jun 06, 2012 rated it liked it
This book proves that in any religion there are extremists that take generic 'holy' text and follow it to the letter without thinking of decency to their fellow human beings. I found this book so disturbing, not only because it is a sect of my own religion, but because this really isn't a work of fiction. This is real life to those believers. And I am all for freedom of religion but those that take their beliefs over the top and it affects children....that's when I say enough. I have never under ...more
This is not a light or breezy read. It will challenge most readers to learn some obscure things, to be patient, and to withhold their opinions of things that may seem strange and rub against our modern mainstream PC grain.

The story begins in Transylvania in 1939. In seemingly unrelated flashes, two children witness the murder of their parents, members of the ultra-orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jewish dynasty. It's obvious from the beginning that the entire book will revolve around these two children'
I am Forbidden begins in 1939 Transylvania where five-year-old Josef, who has crawled under the family table to pick up one of the wooden letters he thought was lost, is the lone survivor when his family is murdered by the Iron Guard. He spends the night under the table waiting for his sister’s voice, and is found the next day by the family’s housekeeper as the Jewish Burial Society takes his sister’s body away. The housekeeper, Florina, stops her tasks as she sees Josef, and quickly takes him a ...more
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this after I read Unorthodox. Similar stories, I heard. Both by women who left the Satmars, they said.

That couldn't be more wrong.

It is true that the author of this book - Anouk Markovits - left the Satmar community, as did Deborah Feldman, but there the similarity ends In Unorthodox, the author clearly had an axe to grind and though she certainly had legitimate complaints her book was more an airing of grievances and a revelation of customs than the telling of a tale.

This, how
Cindi (Utah Mom’s Life)
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012

Josef is a young boy when he survives the massacre of his family in Transylvania during World War II. Hidden and raised by a non-Jewish woman for several years, Josef is eventually discovered by other Jews and sent to live with the Rebbe in New York City. Mila, a young Jewish girl is orphaned when her parents are brutally killed. She is taken in by another Jewish family and raised in Paris.

Thus begins I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits.

Eventually, Josef and Mila, Satmar Jews, will marry and entw
Mary Ann
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a most beautifully written novel. I've been interested in the history of religions throughout the world since I was very young, including the many ancient Eastern disciplines some of which are not real religions at all (e.g., Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism). Judaism has been of particular interest, perhaps because, whether Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, it has been open to change and adaptation throughout the millennia. The exceptions have been the ultra-orthodox Hasidic sects, espec ...more
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was sharp and stunning. Many parts are sad, even horrific, as peoples lives warp and change around this core of Hassidic Jewish traditions. I held the book with a sort of attracted, weary respect. I devoured the first half of the book, but once Atara has left the scene, the book just seemed to slow and the plot dried just a bit. I felt like the point had been made and it might have been more efficient to start wrapping up earlier. Not to demerit the later parts of the book, but I felt ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
This is a very good book, if only because it's about a subculture I've never had an opportunity to observe. I've been to Poland and worked pretty closely with what's left of the Jewish community in Wroclaw, but they were not Hasidic Jews. Fascinating.

My first impression was that the characters of Mila and Atara (all of the characters, really) were not developed very well. They were one-dimensional. Then I realized that that was probably intentionally done, and it was damn clever. The point of th
Cynthia Dunn
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It tells the story of a religion that you hardly ever read about, especially in a novel. And it does that in a beautifully written tale about a young Hasidic couple who escape the Holocaust. Beginning just before WWII in Romania it takes you all the way to Williamsburg Brooklyn in 2012.

This is written by Anouk Markovits, a woman born into a Satmar home in France, who herself left the fold and wrote this amazing book. It is her first written in English and I am curious to see w
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