Unorthodox: the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots by Deborah Feldman

Raised by grandparents in a NYC community of an extremely orthodox Jewish sect, Deborah never felt like she belonged, and she never felt she would be good enough for either others or God. This memoir can be disturbing at times, and some revelations, such as this group’s belief that even speaking English or reading books written in English can be polluting and are therefore forbidden show the extent that some cultures go to enforce their beliefs on others. Needless to say, this author kept many of her own secrets and broke many rules to become a good enough writer to use her memoir as a main vehicle for freeing herself from the oppression of her childhood and early married years.

How long will life be a trial for her? Will she be able to take her baby boy with her when she escapes? This book kept me reading and reading. It is yet another example of ‘ideas’ not being the enemy, but rather ‘fear of ideas’ being the true danger.

Reviewed by Grace

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American Sniper: the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history by Chris Kyle

I read this so I could walk my talk about being open-minded and out of curiosity about just what is inside a sniper’s head. This is the autobiography of our American Navy Seal who has the most confirmed kills. I quickly found I was not interested in the details of the weapons nor the fights; I focused on finding his statements of beliefs and emotions, as well as the lengthy thoughts by his wife, who along with their sons, lived through his being deployed four separate times over several years. The focus on his wife’s experience definitely gave both sides of the story more definition.

Mr. Kyle loved his job and believed every single kill target was evil and deserved to die. He drew the line at killing a child who was used by adults to have a grenade. He successfully defused that situation.

I was surprised to also see Mr. Kyle say he had fun.  Frankly, the book literally gave me a nightmare the night after finishing reading it: I dreamed about an environment where ‘an eye for an eye’ is followed as the rule.  I won’t be as quick to take on books for the reason of being open-minded in the future, but it was an interesting look into the mind of someone who believes himself to be honest and upright and totally different from me. While I gained understanding, I cannot say I gained any sympathy, except for the loss of his friends who died.

Reviewed by Grace

Garbology: our dirty love affair with trash by Edward Humes

While there are way too many statistics in this book to recall, I believe he says early on that America uses 40 percent of the world’s resources, and the resulting trash and waste of energies is incredible.  This is a huge wake-up call to get us to acknowledge our addiction to ‘needing’ more and newer stuff.  And you will never look at plastic in the same way after reading this. Also, if you love sea life, there are some eye-opening descriptions of the bathtub of little bits of plastic that our oceans have become!

While it brought sadness to me, it also gives me an even better feeling every time I use a cloth bag, recycle anything, donate anything for re-use, make my own cleaners or make-up, buy in bulk, choose glass storage instead of plastic, or just say “NO thanks, don’t need it!” in the first place when making a buy-it-or-not decision! A late chapter explains a bit how one modern family has gotten their trash for an entire year down to one mason jar’s worth! I recommend this book.

Reviewed by Grace

The Obamas by Jodi Kantor

I’ll say up front that I can’t be unbiased about this book: I have great admiration for this couple who has put their lives on the line to serve their country.  Author Kantor is a New York Times correspondent who took hundreds of hours of interviews with family, friends, White House officials, and the Obamas, as well. The material spans from the 2008 election up to August 2011, the month the President turned 50. It’s a fascinating picture of the difficulties and triumphs of two married people with different philosophies and personalities who continue to increase their impact–he working through government structures while the she devotes her energy to creating grassroots, community-based programs and initiatives. Anecdotes and quotes reveal plenty of personality clues–for me, a satisfying and inspiring read.

Reviewed by Grace