Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

This is a brave novel written by a woman who was raised as in France as a member of the Satmar Hassidic sect.  She broke from the fold at 19 to avoid an arranged marriage and went on to study science, architecture and romance studies at Columbia, Harvard and Cornell, respectively.  Her tale of the dangers of uncompromising, and unquestioning belief is undoubtedly based on real life experiences and observations.  The story starts during World War II where 2 Satmar orphans are eventually saved by another Satmar family living in Paris.  The boy is sent to be raised by members of the sect in Williamsburg, New York while the girl is raised as part of the Parisian family where her best friend is their eldest daughter.  As the orphan girl's faith grows, her friend's wanes to the point that she abandons her family and becomes dead to them (or at least to her father).  The orphan girl marries within the faith and we see the terrible toll it takes on her, her husband, and ultimately future generations, when she fails to get pregnant.  I don't know how much truth there is to the side story of the Satmar Rebbe having been spared death in the Holocaust due to a deal he cut with certain Zionists to save himself and his family at the expense of other Jews.  But if there's any truth to it, it's despicable given the anti-Zionist teachings of the Satmars.  Though the writing style is occasionally disjointed, the story makes the book worthwhile.

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