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, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.
When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world long closed to most of us, until now.As a contributor to the From Left to Write book club, we don't write reviews on the books we read, but rather engage in a discussion of things the books may bring to mind. In the case of this book, which I deeply loved, I'm really glad that's what we do. I'm still processing what I read, and will probably go read the book again (it's that good!) before I try to write an actual review. It's a serious subject and deserves some serious thoughts. I can't do that right now, but I will be posting a review soon, so be sue to check back in a week or so.
One thing the author touched on was the fantastic pull of libraries; the wonder and awe they can instill. I'll never forget the afternoons of my childhood, spent at the local public library while my mom went shopping (that's back when it was ok to leave your kid somewhere without supervision!). I wandered the stacks for hours and hours, and absolutely hated leaving. I'm so thrilled that my husband and I are passing that library love on to our kids. Each week, on Sunday afternoons, the four of us walk (yes, walk...we live about 2 blocks from our small local library now) together and spend some time checking out books and wandering around.
I always encourage people to give libraries a shot. Don't throw out old books, donate them to the library (last year, we donated about 20 boxes worth!). Check out what fun programs they are offering kids. Go by for story time. Support them by checking out books (and if you are a true bibliophile, as the residents of my house all are, this will save some serious cash!). Enjoy the silence amongst the stacks. Try out something new you've never seen before (I have lost count of how many authors I've discovered since we've started our Sunday outings - Jo Nesbo, John Lindquist, Eowyn Ivey, and China Mieville, to name a few). Just go!!!
This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. Though not sisters by blood but through their Hasidic faith, Mila and Atara views the rules and structure of their culture differently. Mila seeks comfort in the Torah while Atara searches for answers in secular literature she is forbidden to read. Ultimately each must make an irrevocable decision that will change their lives forever. Join From Left to Write on May 8 as we discuss I AM FORBIDDEN. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.