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#427 ~ I Am Forbidden

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

Published by: Hogarth Books

Published on: May 8, 2012

Page Count: 320

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher in order to participate in the author’s TLC Book Tour.

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Giveaway: As part of this tour, I get to give away a copy of I Am Forbidden. One lucky reader living in either the US or Canada who comments on this post by 5/22 will have a chance to win. Good luck!


tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Anouk Markovits’ host on her TLC Book Tour.  This tour is to celebrate her novel, I Am Forbidden.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.


My Review

When a woman is born into a Hasidic Jewish family, there is truly but one acceptable fate open to her. She must marry as well as she can within her community and raise as many children as God sees fit to bestow upon her. She is responsible for keeping her house, food, and, sexually speaking, her husband clean. While this can lead to a beautiful life if a woman is so inclined, anything outside of this box, which can feel as tiny as a phylacteries to some daughters and wives, is unacceptable. Giving into the temptation to want more will make you forbidden. It doesn’t end there. Being from the lineage of a forbidden person makes you forbidden as well. It is within these strict traditions held by the Satmar community that Atara Stern and Mila Heller are born. Although not biologically related, they were raised as sisters after Mila’s parents are killed during World War II. Atara wants to be a good daughter, but she is also excited about learning and longs to explore all that the world offers while Mila longs to be a good Jewish wife and mother. When Mila marries, these best friends and forever sisters are parted in every way.

Until reading I Am Forbidden, I knew little about Hasidic Judaism. What little I did know I learned from television. Although Anouk Markovits left the Hasidic community in which she was raised at a young age, her novel is full of the love she has for her community. There is a beauty in living ones life for one’s faith. Unfortunately, the truth isn’t as black and white as ultra conservative religious sects would like for it to be. It is difficult to live a pure life without doubts or questions. The scenes at the very beginning of the book with Zalman Stern illustrate the seemingly ridiculous lengths people will go to keep from sin. What one has to do in order to remain permitted in this community, however, becomes oppressive when one dares to question to unquestionable and challenge the infallible.

While both men and women can be forbidden, women are in the most precarious position. Not only do they have little say in their futures, but even when women willingly and lovingly enter into a marriage, their position it tenuous. A young woman can scrupulously abide by the stringent and uncomfortably intimate laws of family purity, but if she fails to produce offspring, she can be cast aside with the blessings of the community. After 10 years of infertility, a man is nearly compelled to divorce his wife and remarry in order to live out the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. As an outsider reading this book, there appear to be so many stumbling blocks in the way that it is a wonder that any woman, no matter how dedicated, can shoulder the incredible responsibility of family life and purity in an environment within which she has absolutely no control.

I Am Forbidden is an incredible and addictive read. It took me a short time to adjust to the author’s narrative style, which lays out the story in pieces of varying sizes along the way. Once I caught the rhythm, I couldn’t set the book down for long. As someone unfamiliar with the language and traditions of the Satmar community, I did find the glossary at the back of the book very helpful, especially in the beginning. Markovits also incorporated translations along the way. Regardless of how different my life is from those characters who came urgently alive within the pages of this book, getting caught up in their world felt natural. Had I had the opportunity, I could have read the entire novel in one sitting without a single restless moment or wandering thought. In choosing I Am Forbidden as its premier novel, the newly formed imprint Hogarth has set the bar extremely high. I very highly recommend this novel.

Anouk Markovits’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, May 7th:  Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, May 8th:  Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, May 9th:  nomadreader
Thursday, May 10th:  Life in Review
Friday, May 11th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 14th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, May 16th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 17th:  A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 21st:  Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, May 22nd:  Stiletto Storytime
Wednesday, May 23rd:  The 3 R’s Blog
Tuesday, May 29th:  Luxury Reading
Monday, June 4th:  Suko’s Notebook
Date TBD:  Melody & Words

16 Comments

  • At 2012.05.15 08:16, Heather said:

    This sounds really good. I’d like to read it in conjunction with Deborah Feldman’s UNORTHODOX, to see the similarities/differences in experience(s). Great review.

    • At 2012.05.15 09:33, Literate Housewife said:

      I really must read UNORTHODOX as well. I read The Book Lady’s Blog’s interview with the author and it was incredible. Thanks for the reminder!

    • At 2012.05.15 09:50, amanda (tnrunner66) said:

      Great review. Sounds like a wonderful read. Would love the chance to win.

      • At 2012.05.15 11:41, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

        This sounds fascinating. I know very little about Hassidic Judaism so I’m sure I’d learn a lot if I win it. :)

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        • At 2012.05.15 11:54, Rachel said:

          This sounds great – I’d love to win a copy. Have you read Postville: A Clash of Cultures by Stephen G. Bloom? I think it’s a really good book about Hasidic Jews in Iowa – it’s nonfiction but reads like a novel.

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          • At 2012.05.15 16:28, Anna said:

            I reviewed this book today, too, and it sounds like we had similar thoughts. It was so hard to put it down because I was learning so much about their culture.

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            • At 2012.05.16 05:05, Serena said:

              This sounds fascinating. I love learning about other cultures and religions. This sounds like a good read. Thanks for the giveaway.

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              • At 2012.05.16 10:02, Karen White said:

                This sounds fascinating in terms of this unique culture, with a moving sister-story to boot. Would love to win it!

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                • At 2012.05.16 15:14, Jenn's Bookshelves said:

                  Wholeheartedly agree! I’m now obsessed with learning more about this culture and reading more from this author!

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                  • At 2012.05.16 19:06, Nise' said:

                    I saw this at the library today and did not bring it home. Sounds like I should have.

                    • At 2012.05.21 15:50, nfmgirl said:

                      I think this book sounds fascinating! An inside look at a culture normally closed off to the outside world. Thanks for your review, and for the giveaway!

                      • At 2012.05.23 21:11, Jennifer said:

                        Congratulations! You won the giveaway! I’ll be sending you an email. :)

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                        • At 2012.05.21 21:04, Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said:

                          I’ll definitely have to set aside plenty of time to dedicate to reading this one because I know I won’t want to put it down!

                          Thanks for being on the tour.

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                          • At 2012.05.23 12:41, Kailana said:

                            I really must read this book! Great review!

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