The Bow-Tied Blogger

The life and adventures of one soldier and his various journeys.

  Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Book Review Time. First I want to thank Sara with no H for sending me a book. I can't wait to see what it is :)

Now time for the last book on my list, but one that drew me to it by name: Turbulent Souls:: A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family

Now, when I saw the book, I was curious to say the least. I myself grew up Catholic. My mother is from a mostly Irish family with some German, though her maiden name is Worthington, but thankfully they were originally Normans. Besides, the Worthington's moved to America (well NYC to be more specific), because a Joseph Chapman Worthington married an Irish Catholic and the Brits didn't look too highly on an Anglican marrying an Irish Catholic. MY father's side is Scottish and French, and this is true for centuries as Forsyth was DeForsyth, but in the first goyim millennium, they emigrated to Scotland...probably towards the end of that millenium, as Scotland was Calydonia until the Irish conquered it..this is why Mc and Mac are so similar and why both nations are Gaelic. Those Franco-Scots eventually became Barons and sold out the British, and this group includes Logans who were DeLogans until King James came about. That group settled in the American South and were Episcopalians. My father's mother was French from New Orleans and her family was exiled from France for being polite to tourists :) They were a combination of Canadians who didn't like the outcome of Abraham Plain and aristos settling in New Orleans.

Well, that is my family, and also why I was brought up Catholic. Now the author Stephen Dubner has a very different background. For me to be Jewish, I will convert, though this may be after I move to New York City, where I will not have too much trouble finding a Synagogue :) Stephen's case is different, because his mother is Jewish, even though she converted, so he just needs to embrace his birthright, which he does, but more on that later.

Now, Stepehen's parents were both Jewish and grew up in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, their parents didn't provide them the best religious upbringing. Solly (Stephen's father) was raised by a very devout father, who was not the most personable father, and Solly lost his mother as a young man, which gave him a tremendous emotional blow. During WWII, Solly joined the Army and served in the Pacific, where he would convert to Catholicism, perhaps hoping Mary can fill the void left by his mother Gittel's death. Florence, Stephen's mother had a different background. She grew up in Brooklyn, but in a very secular background, as opposed to Solly. As a young adult she took up ballet and was instructed by a Russian expatriate who had converted from Russian Orthodox to Catholic. Florence would follow in a similar path, but she became a much stricter Catholic. Needless to say, their parents weren't pleased. Florence's parents were disapproving and understandably dismayed to find a holy water dispenser or crucifix, while Solly's father sat Shiva and mourned the "death" of his son. Another prominent change was the names. Solly became Paul and Florence became Veronica. The two met after the war ended and after marriage they moved to a rural area in Suffolk County. As Catholics, they were actually very devout and zealous (which I once was) and had eight children. With all the children, the house in Suffolk proved too small, so they moved to a suburb of Albany, in a farmhouse that was dubbed Eden.

At 10, Stephen was lose his father, which had many effects on him, including an aversion to the Charismatic Catholics his parents had begun flocking to, but his questions about his faith would come much later in College where he would meet his first wife and start a band.

Now, his Catholic faith had lapsed and he had married his first wife in an Episcopal ceremony. They lived in Greenwich Village, where Stephen met his wife's instructor and role model, an Orthodox Jew who, while not advocating any specific faith for Stephen, encouraged Stephen to find absolutes to his life and determine his identity. Through this connection and a search for his parents' family that even leads him to Poland, Stephen re-connects to his Jewish roots. Also, after hi first marriage ended, he remarried a Jewish women and now has two kids, continuing a strong, but knowledgeable Jewish tradition. Ironically, this may have only been possible due to his parents' conversion as he was the youngest of eight kids.

Now, I did not know the story in advance and in some ways I can relate to it, but not too much, as the only non-Catholics in my family are Episcopalians. Also, my parents are not overly devout or the least bit zealous. One other factor affecting Stephen was his initial resentment at his par nets for abandoning their Jewish roots, until it was his ex-wife's mentor who helped him understand that his parents were following their hearts as he was following his, and the fact that if his parents became nonobservant Jews instead of zealous Catholic, they would never have had eight kids, so no Stephen to return to his Jewish roots.

Granted, I have only covered a portion of what the book is about, but if I give too much away, you won't get curious and read the book for yourself :) I thought the book was very good, and of course I also loved Freakonomics, which he wrote more recently. As a Jew in training, I love stories about conversions, and while this book is not a conversion story formally, it still has a great story to it, and I can sympathize with some of Stephen's journey as I am learning Hebrew and will eventually learn how to use a tallit and tefillin, though I will have the benefit of conversion classes and instruction while much of it had to be self-taught, as he accidentally ripped his tallit while davening in one chapter.

I highly recommend the book, especially if you enjoy learning about journeys.

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