Anouk Markovits, Author of I Am Forbidden, on Forbidden Reading

Last week’s Read It First giveaway of Hogarth’s Limited Edition Set featured I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits. Many congratulations to the lucky RIFers who won a set! We can’t wait to hear what you think about all four novels.

Newly launched in the U.S., Hogarth will publish the kind of fiction that people will be talking about 100 years from now: contemporary, voice-driven, character-rich, eclectic, adventurous, provocative, vividly written.

I Am Forbidden is all those things and more. With a starred review in Publishers Weekly and rave early reviews from celebrated authors, it’s one to watch this spring. We’re thrilled to share advance reader’s copies with you, making the Read It Forward community among the first readers to enjoy this fantastic novel.

Forbidden Reading
by Anouk Markovits

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In my ultra-Orthodox, Hasidic childhood, secular books were forbidden. I would often volunteer to do the grocery shopping for my large family, so that a few centimes could find their way into my pocket, then I would sneak into the storefront lending library on the rue des Orfèvres. I would select volumes by size because borrowing a fat book cost the same as borrowing a thin book. I would hide the books on my body beneath my clothes and read them at night by flashlight.

Walking by bookstores, I would glance through the window at the covers, wondering if I would ever be able to buy a newly published title. I was an adult before I bought my first book of contemporary fiction and I remember my sense of triumph when I saved up enough money to buy the full 9-volume French dictionary, Le Grand Robert.

I Am Forbidden is my first novel in English and the first time I have written about the world of Jewish fundamentalism in which I was raised.

Books set in fundamentalist environments generally feature protagonists who leave or struggle to leave. I wanted to try to write about those who stay. This meant writing a novel rather than an essay or a memoir because a novel would permit me to journey into characters whose beliefs and choices were not my own.

I tried to write about the Hasidic world on its own terms, but in the end the genre of the novel intrinsically opposes all fundamentalisms; the multiple, conflicting perspectives that a novel requires are precisely what fundamentalism forbids.

In the Hasidic world I come from, we were not to speak of life inside to people on the outside. And women were not to speak in public at all. So I do not take for granted this opportunity to have my novel published and to be part of communities like Read It Forward that give voice to writers and readers, in support of a world where people are free to select any book they choose.

Anouk Markovits author of I Am ForbiddenANOUK MARKOVITS grew up in France. She attended a religious seminary in England instead of high school. After she left home at the age of nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage, she attended Columbia University. She has a Master of Architecture from Harvard and a PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell. She has worked as an architect and as a set designer on major films including The Unbearable Lightness of Being. She lives in New York. Her first novel, Pur Coton, was written in French. I Am Forbidden is her English-language debut and will be available wherever books are sold on May 8, 2012.

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

  • Carla

    Sounds fascinating, as does the author!

  • Norine Gerson

    I have always had an interest in reading about the Hasidic world. This book sounds very interesting to me.

  • Susan Huetteman

    I read, not to be in the mainstream of literature, not as a hobby or appreciation of an author. It is my responsibility to be aware and informed. How else chan choices be made?

  • Susan

    I have been looking forward to read this one. I am so immersed I can’t put it down. I am Jewish, but conservative. I know a bit about the Chabad community, but not Satmar which I understand is much stricter. It is interesting this novel is coming out right after a memoir, called Unorthodox it is quite controversial was written. I am enjoying reading so far. Thank you for insight on the novel.

  • Judith Corral

    It was a wonderful read. Thanks

  • Judith Corral

    Its a nice story and I would love to read more of these.

  • Mary Gleason

    It looks interesting. I’d like to read it.

  • Sue Hamilton

    I would love to read this book,it sounds so interesting.

  • Krys Glavin

    I feel I could gain knowledge about the Hasidic way of life by reading this book.

  • Yer

    I am very thankful I was randomly selected to win this book. I look forward to reading it. It sounds so interesting. I can’t wait to leave my reviews of the book soon after reading it. Thanks again!!

  • Jacquelyn Lane

    I would absolutely love, love, love to read this book.

  • Melinda Martinez

    I have just received my copy today, and i am very excited to start reading it. going to start it tonight, Very Happy!!

  • Robin

    Thanks for the book! I found it very interesting and read it in two days. I can’t wait to share with my friends and discuss.

  • Kristen

    Couldn’t put this book down, incredible story- I learned so much about the Satmar culture. I can’t wait to see what she writes in the future.

  • Julia Walter

    I enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you for writing it, thank you for giving/ lending me a copy– as I passing it on to others, who will also pass it on. The secrets in these families and this community are fascinating and well-told.

  • Dara

    🙁 🙁 🙁

    I clicked on this one book of the three, so excited…only to find that the giveway has expired. Feels like a tease, woe is my be-stilled heart, who hasn’t won anything in her life. sighs.

    whomever did win a copy, if willing to send it to me when done, i’ll provide a SASE / postage. 🙂

  • RV

    Took this book on a flight thinking I would have it for the round trip. I could not put it down and was left bookless for the return flight.

    Be warned, the beginning (20-30 pgs) can be a struggle but stick with it and you will be greatly rewarded! I think part of it was the mysterious thread that connects the characters and part of it was mine difficulty with the names. Thank goodness I stayed with it. It is a gripping story of measured passion. A story of re-written history that leads two sisters to choose different paths. This is also a love story that is tender and tragic.

    Read this book.

  • Jolene Hamby

    Started out slow but once it picked up, it was hard to put down. Written almost like diary entries. I learned alot more than I tever thought possible about Hasidic Jews. I hope she writes more!.


    Once I started to read this book it felt as if I was there while everything was going on around me!! I had such a Hard time in trying to put it down without finishing reading it all!! Great Book!! There was So Much Passion in this book!! Well Written!! I recommend it to be read by everyone!! Thanks!

  • Theresa

    Would love to read this book it looks like a great story.

  • Pattie

    Book reveals the religious beliefs, traditions, and lives of several Hasidic families. I felt frustrated and confused along with the characters in the book. The cover of the book portrayed the book’s theme: a woman’ face and a Rebbe’s face. on one body. Makes the reader wonder if the author was reliving the same emotions of her characters while she wrote the book. A definite read for everyone from YA to adults.

  • Julie

    Thank you for sending me this book. It was a really great read. From heartbreak to healing to heartbreak. I’m torn between the total devotion of the Hasidic family beliefs & traditions. I’m both impressed & saddened by it. As a Christian it seemed like I was reading about one of the 12 tribes of Judah trying to keep the Law. It made me especially grateful for my salvation.

  • Mary E.

    Great book. Fasinating read. Thanks.

  • robin

    Wow!! This was a great read. I had a hard time putting it down. The two different stories and views of a religion that I didn’t know too much about were fascinating. I loved how easily it moved back and forth between the two, and look forward to reading more from this author. Can’t wait to pass it on the my sisters!!!!

  • Liz

    amazing story. I loved it so much I finished it in one day and already passed it along to a friend.

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for sending me this book! What a heart-wrenching story. Found it absolutely fascinating. Will pass it on to my family!

  • Liz

    I just finished this last night. It was hard to get into in the beginning, and I am sure that has a lot to do with all the terms being used that were all new to me (plus I definitely didnt realize there was a glossary in the back). Once I started to understand more of what was going on it become very interesting to me and I didnt want to put it down.

  • Georgianne

    Interesting book that gives insight into strict Orthodox Jewish faith. Historical fiction with a love story taking place from the Nazi era to modern times. Strict adherence to religious belief harms the central characters’ marriage and health. Hard book to put down because you become enthralled with the central characters.

  • Joan Vanden Elzen

    I was a lucky reader who received a free book. I enjoyed the book, but took me a little time to read as it was out in my “comfort zone” for books. Fascinating story about a world I am not at all familiar with, but the themes of love, family, loyalty, loss and lack of communication ring true despite religious and cultural differences.

  • Rebecca

    Absolutely loved this book. I read on my breaks & clocked in late a few times. although American born I grew up surrounded by Satmar chasidim in Boro Park, Brooklyn where they have a large community. I am orthodox but not chassidic so I knew where all this was coming from but could still read it with an open mind. I am thrilled to have won this book and hope to read many more by this author in the future.

  • Jacqueline Bethune

    I really found this book to be emotional and it really pulled me in. It made me think about what life could be like in a different culture or religion. I found it to be very interesting. It explained some aspects of the Hasidic Jewish faith and how the people were treated during World War II. It was a wonderful story that made me feel for the characters in the book.
    It starts out in World War II with the Jews being taken on trains to the concentration camps. There was the story of the boy who watched his whole family be murdered in front of him, then the maid took him away from there and turned him into a Christian. He is found by the Jewish people again and taken to America to study with the Rabbi. There is marriage to a young Jewish girl from the family who found the boy. They cannot have children and then things get interesting. To tell more would give away too much of the ending.
    This book gave a bit of history of World War II as well as the perspective of a Jewish family and how they survive. I found the book to be very interesting and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good book. It will draw in the reader and make them feel like they are a part of the story. I really enjoyed reading this book even though parts of it made me cry.

  • Marcia

    Living in a fundamentalist world is difficult for any outsider to comprehend. Markovitz pulls in the reader and provides a fascinating look at a culture that is foreign to so many of us.

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