Prior to this book I was very ignorant of the Jewish culture save my knowledge derived from watching countless episodes of that season of Sex and the City where Char converted to Judaism so she she could marry Harry. In this book Vincent vividly describe her own experience growing up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish home with expectations to marry and continue in her Jewish Yeshivish community as her mother and thousands of other Jewish women had done before her, problem is, she always thought there has got to be something more. It was this curiosity that caused her to be an outcast in her family and was forced to fend for herself outside of the protection and love of her family home.
Growing up as as one of the 11 children of the Yeshivish community influential Rabbi Kaplan, Leah was raised to worship two things: God and the men who ruled her world. The only problem with this setting was that, the future Leah envisioned for herself was cut short when, at sixteen, she was caught exchanging letters with a male friend, a violation of religious law that forbids contact between members of the opposite sex. Her father was unforgiving and naturally so was her mother while her siblings and friends stay way for fear of the same fate by associating themselves with her. With no where to turn and her parents fear that her behavior would affect the marriage prospect of her siblings, Leah was sent away with only the clothes on her back and found herself in New York city for the first time outside the gates of a Jewish community. She spent the next few years using her sexuality as a way of attracting the male approval she had been conditioned to seek out as a child, while becoming increasingly unfaithful to the religious dogma of her past.
A very fast read as you will be held spellbound from the very first page. Vincent grew up in a world where women lives only for the pleasing of their husbands and face with no husband, and no prospect, what is she to do. Leah’s struggles to define herself through her sexuality was harrowing. She seeks out love from the first person who considered her attractive and later when the pain of dejection and loneliness became too much she began cutting herself just so she could concentrate the pain in one location.
As all books about young women moving away from the behind the gates of religious communities (whether in rebellion or ostracization) this book forces us to confront not only the oppressive world of religious fundamentalism, but also the broader issues that face even the most secular young women as they grapple with sexuality and identity
Leah Vincent (Nee: Kaplan)