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My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


From the Washington Post columnist and James Beard Award-winning author of Poor Man’s Feast comes a story of seeking truth, acceptance, and self in a world of contradiction...
Treyf: According to Leviticus, unkosher and prohibited, like lobster, shrimp, pork, fish without scales, the mixing of meat and dairy. Also, imperfect, intolerable, offensive, undesirable, unclean, improper, broken, forbidden, illicit.
Fans of Augusten Burroughs and Jo Ann Beard will enjoy this kaleidoscopic, universal memoir in which Elissa Altman explores the tradition, religion, family expectations, and the forbidden that were the fixed points in her Queens, New York, childhood. Every part of Altman’s youth was laced with contradiction and hope, betrayal and the yearning for acceptance: synagogue on Saturday and Chinese pork ribs on Sunday; bat mitzvahs followed by shrimp-in-lobster-sauce luncheons; her old-country grandparents, whose kindness and love were tied to unspoken rage, and her bell-bottomed neighbors, whose adoring affection hid dark secrets.
While the suburban promise of The Brady Bunch blared on television, Altman searched for peace and meaning in a world teeming with faith, violence, sex, and paradox. Spanning from 1940s wartime Brooklyn to 1970s Queens to present-day rural New England, Treyf captures the collision of youthful cravings and grown-up identities. It is a vivid tale of what it means to come to yourself both in spite and in honor to your past.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 25, 2016 – Washington Post columnist Altman (Poor Man's Feast) writes about Jewish food and family in Queens, N.Y., and how the former, with its goulashes and kreplach, sustains and anchors her while the latter leaves her in a state of panic and bewilderment. Her decades-long struggle to regain the happiness and comfort she felt in her beloved maternal grandmother's home is depicted lovingly, with many moments of heartbreak and disappointment but also joy and contentment. Her childhood and adolescence are rife with disapproval and contradictions, such as bacon breakfasts before Sunday visits to her Orthodox paternal grandparents. Her grandmother tries to feed her brains; her grandfather is a rage-filled cantor whose family perished in the Holocaust. There's also tremendous conflict between Altman's father, an adman who adores cooking and food, and her mother, an aspiring singer and actor who starves herself and is relegated to performing for neighbors. The preoccupation with treyf (something that's prohibited and unkosher) is a constant, such as how her grandmother describes the women Altman's father dated before marrying, and the Spam he cooks that her mother tosses, emphatically declaring, "We're Jews." Pork, shellfish, and everything forbidden are endlessly present in their conspicuous absence. There's also unease for Altman as she keeps the secret that she's attracted to women. When she's in her 30s, she sheds an image that never belonged to her and marries a Catholic woman. Altman's path to living authentically is hard won, but she demonstrates there's reward to be found in the fight.
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Sep 20, 2016
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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