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Writers' League of Texas Discover AwardFinalist Pirate's AlleyPEN Faulkner May Sarton Award Chautauqua Prizea Redbook Magazine and Good Housekeeping Best Book of 20152016 Wordwrite Award for memoir Uncovered is the first memoir to tell of a gay woman leaving the Hasidic fold Told in understated crystalline prose Lax begins her story as a young teen leaving her liberal secular home to become a Hasidic Jew then plumbs the nuances of her arranged marriage fundamentalist faith and Hasidic motherhood as her creative sexual and spiritual longings shimmer beneath the surface


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    This is a memoir about a woman's experience as part of a Hasidic Ultra Orthodox Jewish community in Texas I was reading it for the book club driving myself to read a certain number of pages per day and get done so I had a sense of obedience and subjecting my will to that of others that let me feel a little of what the author is describing although in my case there were just seven days of 50 pages per day before my obedience this time would be overThis book purports to be a voyage of discovery but to a degree falls into a trap that a lot of memoirs do telling her side of the story As such it's like hearing one side in a marital conflict Here are some of the descriptive terms that came to me at first voyeuristic blaming self justifying titillating minstrel show like denigrating self serving ingratiating angry self righteous shameless judgmental childlike emotional chicanery I realize those are pretty harsh But I don't like unfairness and don't think much of trashing another way of life treating it in effect as a cult That being said I wouldn't have done well in that or one of the other traditional ways of life I can imagine bad things happening to me in the old days depending on what the culture was maybe being burned at the stake at any rate ostracized or just getting sick from unhappinessIt took me until approximately p 222 to get clear on the author's actual theme which is that this community saved her Her family of origin was beyond dysfunctional although sadly not terribly unusual and to a great extent the community she joined saved her It gave her a new and much solid family in which to grow up and finally rebel against in the process of finding herself Although that dynamic that this way of life was not a cult but a lifeline is never as clear as the first dynamic And in many ways she succeeded and functioned well in the life she'd chosen not seduced into remaining in it for nearly 30 years growing up running a family raising seven children and behaving lovinglySo a few other descriptors are belonging in process tragic painful eye witnessing Regarding the last sometimes Lax loses the judging and denigrating temporarily and simply describes the scene But she's still not grateful I thought the author owed that community a debt of gratitudeI don't think it's much of a spoiler to say the author defines herself as a lesbian Beside being one of the many facets of living that she has to come to terms with it becomes as well a way of saying she had to leave in our modern biology as destiny way And maybe that's the absolute case here Maybe she's way out on the extreme where her lesbian sexuality is an absolute But I wasn't convinced didn't find the author convincing Maybe you've known women as I have who leave their marriages waving the lesbian flag even living for a while with a woman in the same house with the former husband something you couldn't do with another man without somebody getting killed and then perhaps after few years find another man and remarry The author didn't luck up in the marriage department Her husband was uptight and inhibited mostly unable to be caring and generous sexually or otherwise or at any rate he wasn't Both of them were sexually inexperienced and awkward and he was no help The author makes clear there were happy marriages in the community She thought to the end that she was just supposed to feel some way that would cure both of them He was no help You don't have to be gay or in a Hasidic community to get this unhappy result think On Chesil BeachHere are a few other points I'd like to makeShe says Jesus's last supper was a ritual Passover seder That's a common misconception It wasn't Assuming the Gospel episode is historical it was a Passover celebration which included several of the ritual objects that are still in use today The early rabbinical sages had to figure out what to do after the Temple had been destroyed They came up with today's seder sometime at the end of the first century and during the second centuryShe refers to this community where Torah study is recreation Well hey I think it is too and I know others who do who aren't ultra Orthodox Obviously I'm not talking about devotional study but study like literary historical or philosophical study which I also think is great fun So maybe I'm weird but I'm not alone I particularly like intimating what people's mindset was in former times not just the same as now you can be sure I like seeing where things come from I even like understanding about the sacrifices in Leviticus Well now I know you think I'm weird Speaking of her lesbianism she says I am exactly what you shield your children from what the Torah calls an abomination Well no Leaving aside whatever it says about men and how that's been translated and interpreted the Torah doesn't say anything about women Nor does the whole Hebrew bible Maybe not the Christian Bible either? I'm not sure about that It doesn't forbid sex between women never even contemplates it Why other than that it doesn't result in pregnancy? I heard an interesting and fun theory We're talking patriarchal right? And we're speaking of something men like So why would we expect it would be forbidden?Another stray thought I read that before emancipation life was different There was no Orthodox Judaism there was only Judaism Orthodoxy being a reaction to the liberalizing movement that occurred in some locales after emancipation What I read was that in those days much was conducted according to custom minhag and not so much according to written rules I'm speaking of the ultra Orthodox and their way of life and no doubt theses can and have been written but not by meFinally on the point of breaking out of some community into freedom that's how we conceive of it But we always break out into something else with its own rules markers expectations and demandsI saw a movie Arranged about two young women teachers an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim both dealing with finding a husband through arranged marriages who receive pressure from a segment of the outside community in the person of their principal The principal is not the sympathetic character