I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

85%

32 Critic Reviews

I Am Forbidden is a work of fiction, but it feels as personal as a diary, a written chronicle of years of hopes and doubts.
-AV Club

Synopsis

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.

 

About Anouk Markovits

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ANOUK MARKOVITS was raised in France in a Satmar home, breaking from the fold when she was nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science from Columbia University, a Master of Architecture from Harvard, and a PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell. Her first novel, Pur Coton, written in French, was published by Gallimard. I Am Forbidden is her English-language debut. She lives in New York with her husband.
 
Published May 8, 2012 by Hogarth. 338 pages
Genres: Other, Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction
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Critic reviews for I Am Forbidden
All: 32 | Positive: 30 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
Apr 01 2012

Less a commercial family saga, more a sober, finely etched scrutiny of extreme belief set in a female context.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Susannah Meadows on May 15 2012

Given the author’s background, you might assume that this is a story about how one of them is wrecked by her choice. But the wonder of this elegant, enthralling novel is the beauty Ms. Markovits unearths in the Hasidic community she takes us into.

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Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by A. J. Levin on Jun 17 2012

Evocative and readable, the novel offers keen insights into the ultra-orthodox world, as well as those who are compelled to leave it.

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Samantha Nelson on Jun 18 2012

I Am Forbidden is a work of fiction, but it feels as personal as a diary, a written chronicle of years of hopes and doubts.

Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden | See more reviews from AV Club

Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Stephen Lee on May 11 2012

... this ambitious, revelatory novel (which includes a helpful glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms) richly rewards your efforts and heralds a promising new writer.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Catherine Taylor on Jun 21 2012

The world explored in this novel of a Hasidic family is that of a righteous masochism, a circulatory dread, expressed in luminously beautiful prose.

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PopMatters

Below average
Reviewed by Diane Leach on Jul 18 2012

...while Markovits offers clear explanations of Orthodox practices, her characters aren’t precisely sympathetic...they are predictable...Markovits, a deft, lyrical writer, is capable of more.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Jon on May 14 2012

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 closed to most of us.

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Book Geeks

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirsty Hewitt on Jul 26 2012

The story is incredibly engrossing and absorbing, and as violent as it is moving.

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Winnipeg Free Press

Excellent
Reviewed by Nadia Kidwai on May 19 2012

Her unique story, engaging writing and fascinating subject matter makes this work of literary fiction a compelling read.

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Shelf Awareness

Excellent
Reviewed by Ilana Teitelbaum on Apr 30 2012

To Markovits's credit, I Am Forbidden does not read like a contemptuous, unidimensional exposé of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life. With poetic grace, she succeeds at depicting the culture from the inside out...

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The Humanist

Excellent
Reviewed by Mark Say

Overall it is the powerful sense of suppressed longing among her characters that makes the book such an engrossing and affecting read.

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The Star Phoenix

Excellent
Reviewed by Elaine Kalman Naves on May 17 2012

Steeped in erudition and seething with emotion and energy, I Am Forbidden is driven by a breathless momentum that makes it hard to put down.

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Unpious

Excellent
Reviewed by Zackary Sholem Berger on Jun 03 2012

Markovits brings off this balancing act with skill and daring. Everyone is given their due. Instead of disrespect or easy judgment, there is generosity of spirit and delicacy of the pen.

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Jewish Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Rabbi Jack Riemer on May 04 2012

It is because she portrays her characters – not as straw men or as good guys versus bad guys – as real human beings, caught between two worlds, that I was hooked by this novel from the first page.

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Luxury Reading

Good
Reviewed by Vera on Jun 05 2012

The story is immensely powerful but Markovits’ style requires the reader to fill in the gaps and often draw their own conclusions from what’s given to them on the page.

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Jenn's Bookshelves

Good
Reviewed by Jenn on May 16 2012

This book has moved me like none other and has inspired me to learn more about this culture. Highly, highly recommended.

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Literate Housewife

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer on May 08 2012

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.

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Nomad Reader

Good
May 09 2012

Markovits skillfully uses pace, character development and intrigue to make this novel absolutely riveting. Highly recommended to just about everyone.

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Peeking Between the Pages

Good
Reviewed by Darlene on May 11 2012

There are some parts that the average reader might find harder to get through but the bulk of the novel is mesmerizing.

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Diary of an Eccentric

Good
Reviewed by Anna on May 14 2012

...it was so fascinating that I didn’t want to put it down.  Markovits enables readers to sympathize with the characters, even when they might not agree with their religious convictions.

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Literary Hoarders

Good
Reviewed by Penny on Jul 23 2012

Markovits gracefully shows compassion to both of their tales, one sister that remains devout, one that dreams of escape.

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Dolce Bellezza

Good
May 08 2012

It caused me to think deeply about what it means to be forbidden, and what it means to be forgiven.

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The Three R's Blog

Below average
May 23 2012

While Markovits rises to that challenge for the most part, when she tries to take Mila out of her life's confines, the novel takes a turn that I thought was unfortunately soap-operatic. ...my appreciation for it diminshed a bit over the last third of the book.

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Raging Bibliomania

Good
Reviewed by Zibilee on May 23 2012

This was a brilliant and beautiful book that sought to explain a way of life which is unfamiliar to most, populated by vivid characters who were placed under severe duress amidst stolen moments of joy.

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In the Next Room

Good
May 25 2012

Overall, this was an incredibly beautifully written book...she is just that good of an author, one that makes the reader believe that no other world ever existed, except for one she created.

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Life in Review

Good
Reviewed by Michelle Vasquez on May 10 2012

The story is deeply moving, and I became so attached to the characters that I wasn’t ready to let them go in the end.

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Book Group of One

Good
Reviewed by Carol Wallace on Jul 10 2012

Markovits is very good on this lost world, giving us outsiders a glimpse of the ecstasy of worship, the confidence instilled by living in an enclave, the rewards of satisfying family life, and above all the Satmar community’s will to survive.

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Stiletto Storytime

Good
Reviewed by Courtney on Jun 16 2012

Her unique view of their world shines through every page as she draws on even the most minute of details from both her childhood and young adulthood growing up within the sect and her thorough research...

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Shall Write

Good
Reviewed by Abria on Aug 09 2012

Markovits plays masterfully with the tension between an individual’s impulse for freedom and the cultural demands of obedience. It’s a very moving novel...

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Dee's Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by Dee on Jun 15 2012

The writing style is easy to get sucked into and I had a hard time putting it down.

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Life Meets Entertainment

Good
Jun 09 2012

Even at the end Markovits remains relatively neutral and lets her characters choices speak for themselves – no small feat. I AM FORBIDDEN is a truly wonderful read. I AM FORBIDDEN is a truly wonderful read.

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Reader Rating for I Am Forbidden
76%

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