An explosive new memoir reveals one mother's journey to break free from the strangling repression of life in a New York Orthodox Jewish household.
In Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots, Deborah Feldman recounts years 'trapped' in her Satmar community, the religious sect barring her from individual freedoms and, she says, promoting silence and suffering in their place.
Now 25, Ms Feldman chronicles the awakening to her oppression and the struggle to turn her back on the Satmars in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood - a place that until just two years ago, she called home.
At just 17, Ms Feldman found herself in an arranged marriage.
She had known her husband for just thirty minutes before agreeing to taking the vow to spend her life with him, in his service.
Sex was dysfunctional. In an interview with the New York Post, she remembers never hearing the word 'sex' or 'vagina' mentioned and intercourse was a dark, fumbled affair after which her husband called the rabbi who then declared her consummated and 'unclean'.
The rabbi has the final word on sex and health - even inspecting underwear 'in a zip lock bag' to declare whether a woman's period is kosher or non-kosher.
For two weeks of each month, her husband was not allowed to touch her, or even come into secondary contact with her. 'If you're sitting on a sofa, you have a divider between you. It makes you feel so gross. You feel like this animal in the room,' she told the newspaper.
In a note from the author, Ms Feldman explains the roots of Satmar Hasidism, a Jewish sect that is largely shielded from modern life - and one that she believes, she told the Post, is no better than extreme Muslim fundamentalism.
A reaction to the atrocities of Holocaust, the sect is named for a Hungarian town that was the home of a rabbi who fled to the U.S.
'Hasidic Jews in America eagerly returned to a heritage that had been on the verge of disappearing, donning traditional dress and speaking only in Yiddish, as their ancestors had done,' she writes.
'Most important, though, Hasidic Jews focused on reproduction, wanting to replace the many who had perished and to swell their ranks once more. To this day, Hasidic communities continue to grow rapidly, in what is seen as the ultimate revenge against Hitler.'
In the book, she describes how she was forbidden from speaking in English and was told that 'impure languages' act as welcome mats 'put out for the devil.'
She told the Post that the emphasis on faith was so all-pervading that every day she was forced to put her life into the hands of God - and health and safety was all but ignored by her family and friends.
She rode in a car without a seatbelt, never visited a doctor and was made to respect all older Hasid men, even if they posed a threat to her wellbeing.
She suggests that at age 12, she was sexually assaulted by a cousin and was made to feel it was her problem: 'It's obviously all your fault and not his, and you need to keep quiet about it,' she told the newspaper.
In her memoir, she recalls hiding her contraband Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott books: 'Once a year when Zeidy [grandfather] inspects the house for Passover, poking through our things, we hover anxiously, terrified of being found out. Zeidy even rifles through my underwear drawer. Only when I tell him that this is my private female stuff does he desist, unwilling to violate a woman's privacy'.
Stories of a different world - promises of hope and glimpses into what could be - the books opened the author's eyes to a future beyond Satmar Hasidism.
It was the birth of her son, now five, combined with the classes she had enrolled in at Sarah Lawrence College, that flicked a switch in the young Brooklyinte's head - she knew that there was more to life.
A car near-fatal crash was the final straw, and on leaving the hospital, she packed her bags and moved in with her college friend.
Throwing herself into life as a young, independent single mother, Ms Feldman is set on making up for lost time - relishing the simplicities of day-to-day living that she was denied in her ultra-conservative upbringing.
Ms Feldman describes how much she enjoys visiting restaurants.
'I think I love eating out more than most people,' she says, 'because I was never allowed to do it. Women aren't allowed to eat out.'
Hair is another area in which she relishes having freedom. For a year, she followed the Satmar expectation of women to shave their heads and wear wigs. 'I have a hard time cutting my hair now, because I remember how long it took to grow it out the first time,' she says.
Her clothing was as restrictive as her language - at 11-years-old, dressing rules became stricter, she told the Post, forcing girls to 'only wear high-neck blouses, with woven fabrics, because their theory is that woven fabrics don't cling. T-shirts show boobs.'
'If you had a curvy body, then there was something wrong with you. No matter what I wore, the school principal always had a problem with me, because I'm a little Kardashian-esque and I developed young,' she told the newspaper.
Swimming suits were 'ridiculous' full-body cladding, consisting of 'nylon fabric and thick, floppy, long sleeves, and pants covered with an extra layer of material to make it look like a skirt.'
She now celebrates her body and womanly curves, wearing short dresses and comfortable knits.
The decision to leave Hasidism and her family - she now has primary custody of her son - she says, was not made lightly. She received emails from her closest relatives encouraging her to commit suicide and says she is now a pariah - but that the book acts as 'protection'.
'[My relatives] are terrified of having their actions become public. So it's an insurance policy, in a way. There's a reason why Hasidic people in New York get away with so much. There's this sort of tacit arrangement: They don't do anything the media can criticize,' she told the Post.
She has stepped away from that doctrine - and her book is bound to incense and scare many.
But for the girl from Williamsburg, who is now dating an Irish Catholic from New Orleans, horizons no longer end abruptly at the shore of the East River.
UNORTHODOX: AN EXCERPT
'I have secrets too. Maybe Bubby knows about them, but she won't say anything about mine if I don't say anything about hers. Or perhaps I have only imagined her complicity; there is a chance this agreement is only one-sided. Would Bubby tattle on me? I hide my books under the bed, and she hides hers in her lingerie, and once a year when Zeidy inspects the house for Passover, poking through our things, we hover anxiously, terrified of being found out. Zeidy even rifles through my underwear drawer. Only when I tell him that this is my private female stuff does he desist, unwilling to violate a woman's privacy, and move on to my grandmother's wardrobe. She is as defensive as I am when he rummages through her lingerie. We both know that our small stash of secular books would shock my grandfather more than a pile of chametz, the forbidden leavening, ever could. Bubby might get away with a scolding, but I would not be spared the full extent of my grandfather's wrath. When my zeide gets angry, his long white beard seems to lift up and spread around his face like a fiery flame. I wither instantly in the heat of his scorn. "Der tumeneh shprach!" he thunders at me when he overhears me speaking to my cousins in English. An impure language, Zeidy says, acts like a poison to the soul. Reading an English book is even worse; it leaves my soul vulnerable, a welcome mat put out for the devil.'