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Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,278 ratings  ·  197 reviews
The powerful coming-of-age story of an ultra-Orthodox child who was born to become a rabbinic leader and instead became a woman

Abby Stein was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, isolated in a culture that lives according to the laws and practices of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, speaking only Yiddish and Hebrew and shunning modern life. Stein was bor
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Seal Press
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  1,278 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“In a Community that is so sheltered that doesn’t even fight or hate the LGBTQ+ Community but simply ignores it, I had no idea there was anyone else like me”.
“Without the Internet, without English, I had no name for what I felt”.

First born son, Yisroel Avrom Ben Menachem Mendel, came from parents descended from rabbinic dynasties—(Czarist Russia or Austria-Hungarian), royal families of Hasidism.
Avrom had five older sisters.
[12 siblings total in Avrom’s family].
He lived in a secluded Hasid
Frieda Vizel
Dec 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Abby Stein’s new book, Becoming Eve, exemplifies the pitfalls of the genre of OTD memoir. Her story differentiates itself from others, because Abby also came out as a trans woman, so hers is a story of “two transitions.” Each of Abby’s transitions intensified the other, especially as they both happened in her early twenties, shortly after Abby’s arranged marriage and the birth of her son. But the dominant story is Abby’s chafing and rebelling against the Hasidic Williamsburg community. She rebel ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I read the blurb, I didn't assume that this would be a book that would make me stay up two hours after I had planned to go to sleep, simply because I couldn't stop reading it. And yet, I thought I'd only read one chapter to see what it's like and next thing I knew, I was 40 pages away from the end.

As I am also on the trans-Jewish intersection, I was really excited to read this. I've heard of Abby Stein's story before (and will forever feel bad for not going to see her speak in Tel Aviv when
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5. I’m fascinated by memoirs of leaving and living in Orthodox Judaism, but this one took things even a step further as Abby Stein not only left the Orthodox community, she transitioned to female after being a married rabbi with a child. My disappointment with the book was the lack of emphasis on the transition itself. How did she tell her wife, how is she allowed by the community to still have a relationship with her son. How difficult was the physical transition, etc. maybe there’s another b ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I am not sure yet how I want to rate this book.
The reason being... I have to decide what I was expecting from reading this memoir.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are many memoirs about transitioning and many memoirs about leaving ultra-Orthodoxy, but this is the first to ever combine them. "Becoming Eve" is a groundbreaking story told with an authentic voice. Abby shares both the good and bad parts of growing up Hasidic, bringing us into her close-knit, loving family while shining light on problematic aspects of the lifestyle's strict need to conform. The book's tone is hopeful and positive, even after everything she's been through, which is refres ...more
Sheila Pransky
There’s no question that Ms. Stein is an amazingly brave and strong pioneer. I was excited to read her book. Sadly, I was disappointed. The detail devoted to the readings and education of the Hassid way of life is interesting but much too much, leaving out so many opportunities to expand on the personal trials and challenges, such as the relationship with the wife and child.
I’m wondering about what made Ms. Stein leave her marriage and child, and why they didn’t talk more about her later life.
Bogi Takács
This was a good read - though it ended very abruptly, like the publisher could not decide whether to order in two volumes or just one. I have very strong feelings about the topic, so it might take me a while to review the book in more detail.
Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library (currently closed, but I got this one just before they closed)
It's a unique topic to be sure, a compelling story simply and cleanly told. But there is a big gap between the last chapter and the epilogue, and that dampens the memoir experience. I don't know why the past few years of Abby's path from Hasidic man to non-Orthodox woman was left out, whether it was too painful/personal or the book was rushed to publish before complete. But it really bothers me. If you're going to write a memoir, tell the story in full, otherwise write an article or a blog or so ...more
Claire M
Reading the reviews, I see some complaints that Abby skips a number of years, in between coming out and the present day. I think it's important that we remember that we (as readers) are not entitled to every event of her life. It makes complete sense that she would not want to share details about people -- especially her son -- whose privacy she wants to protect. Furthermore, there may be events that she isn't sharing because they are painful. Or, simply, she might not want every detail of her l ...more
Phoebe Kiekhofer
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Abby Stein shares her story so generously and vulnerably. As a queer and Jewish person, I have found very few books that I have felt reflect my identities so aptly. This book was very hard to put down, and I miss reading it already!
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is compelling, if a little scattered. The end felt hurried, but overall was very genuine. Very interesting read.
Robin Mandell
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing!!!!! I’ll come back with a more thorough review later on, but I had to put something here about how fantastic this book is. Definitely a top read for 2020.
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, amazing book. I love her writing style. It's like catching up with an old friend over coffee. A casual and accessible treatment of what must have been such a difficult childhood. I'm really grateful to have found a Jewish community that is not just accepting of, but also celebrates trans Jews, including having a trans rabbi. So it's important to be reminded that, unfortunately, this is not a universal attitude and that trans Jews elsewhere need help being accepted.

I think the most fasc
Erika Dreifus
I seem to be on something of a memoir kick. This is another one that I'd been hearing/reading about a lot: on lists, podcasts, etc., and it's another one that makes me admire a courageous writer. Near the end of the book, Stein writes that her story "is still happening"; the text's final sentence is "To be continued!" I'll look forward to reading the sequel. ...more
Pamela Levine
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
deserves a 4.5
it is a true story about a first born son born into a Rabbinical family - born to be a rabbi
from a young age she feels she is a girl
this is her journey from getting out of an ultra orthodox family and becoming the girl she was meant to be.....
Cheryl Pashlin
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting.
Learned a lot of the history and customs of the Hasidic Jewish community.

Written with great detail and hopefully with honesty it is the story of a woman’s decision that will forever change her life.
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly, one of the very best books I have ever read! A gripping story that spans a lifetime of uncertainty, until Abby was able to break free from the Hassidic community and become herself.
Malka Labell
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The first of it's kind, Abby Stein recounts her experience having been born as an heir to a long dynasty of ultra-orthodox Hasidic rabbis descended directly from the Bal Shem Tov virtually eliminated any understanding or compassion from her parents for Stein’s personal identity struggles.

Abby Chava Stein was born Yisroel Avrom Ben Menachem Mendel in 1991 in Brooklyn, New York. Stein was one of 13 children. It captures her story of growing up an not fitting in, not thinking like her brothers, wan
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, religion
Abby’s story is both familiar and strange at the same time.
Abby grew up in a community like mine, experienced many of her life events like mine, only not like me, at all.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading. I expected an OTD book, but having never read a transgender book, knew this would be different.
I did expect it to be perhaps narcissistic, if Abby’s Facebook wall is any indicator.
Instead I found a coming of age story. The typical OTD narrative. The unusual bits about gender
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt
Abby Stein's life story is very interesting, but what I find even more interesting is the way she wrote and structured her memoir. Some reviewers have criticized that she spends a lot of time describing sometimes intricate details of her method of religious study, but I personally think that something that obviously had such a big impact on her life deserves as much space as she wants to give it here. I agree that it sometimes feels like she skipped important details, especially nearing the end ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
odd man out #2
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Stein gives here an incredibly detailed look at her upbringing, assigned male at birth in a historical rabbinic family in the New York Hasidic community. I appreciated not only her reflections on what was stifling and repressive in that context, but also her attention paid to what she loved and what nourished her growing up.

There are two challenging aspects for me in the portions of her story related to gender. One is that, though she fought it until her twenties, she reports that as early as pe
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, lgbtq
Imagine being transgender and part of a fundamentalist religious community in which gender roles are deeply engrained - so much so that you don't even know that gender dysphoria exists. This is Stein's story of how she left her Hasidic world and came out as transgender; she says she's unaware of another memoir that combines both experiences.

I almost gave this five stars; I enjoyed it that much. The whole topic is fascinating, and Stein describes everything so well. But when she describes how va
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-etc, memoir
A very interesting memoir of growing up as rabbinic "royalty" in a Hasidic community while feeling estranged from one's body and from the strict gender socialization of that community. It's always fascinating to see inside a closed community, and Stein is a good enough writer to make that world come alive.

However, Stein's memoir is only about life inside that community, which means that some of what I was intrigued about -- the decision to leave the community, what it was like to get a GED and s
Chloe Noland
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was such a fascinating read, I finished it in two days! Abby Stein's story of transition is unique in that she was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. The role of gender in this society is so segregated that it affects almost every aspect of daily life. Abby focuses on the love and support of her community as much as her inner confusion and anguish at not being treated or recognized as her true gender, proving true that not all cases of family dysfunction are so black and white. ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Continuing my theme of reading about people leaving Orthodox Judaism this year, Becoming Eve might be my favorite of them all.

The only disappointing part is that the portion of the book discussing Abby's actual transition is very brief. I understand that this is a story in progress so to speak but we go from Abby's son's bris being the tipping point to jumping ahead a good four years. I'd like to hear more about her decision to leave and how she did that. Then again, that was the content of most
Cheryl Sokoloff
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Becoming Eve : my journey from ultra-orthodox rabbi to transgender woman.
This is Abby Chava Stein’s memoir. She tells us what it was like to grow up in the most orthodox of orthodox families in #Brooklyn, knowing from her earliest memories, that although on the outside she was male, on the inside she always was female. Growing up in this community, where girls and boys are segregated from early childhood, posed unique challenges for Chava. She succeeded where many others have not. I highly reco
Becoming Eve is an honest and moving portrait of a life spent in questions and contemplation. Any coming out journey is fraught; even more so when coming out means having to physically, emotionally, and spiritually leave home. Written with tenderness and strength in equal parts, Stein tells her story piece by piece as though she is sitting right next to the reader. What I respect most about this memoir, is that Stein speaks with respect about people who no longer respect her. That takes courage, ...more
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This is a poignant autobiography in which the author reflects on the pain of growing up in a society in which she was unable to be herself while still finding moments of warmth and tenderness in nostalgic reminisces she holds dear. This account tends to be on the cerebral side, as even a dedicated memoirist might not be desirous to plumb the depths of her emotions for the entire world to see. That’s certainly understandable and perhaps accounts for the abrupt way the narrative concludes. There i ...more
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