Years ago, I read a poem called "Fragile Wings."
I don't usually connect with other people's poetry, but this one stood out. Here are just a few stanzas clipped from the whole poem:
Where was the freedom promised?
For those of us who opened our eyes to the reality around us, that became our heart's battlecry. Where is that all that gosh-darn freedom you all are blubbering on about? And the feeling that by exposing the "wings," that's what crushed them.
Thanks, social justice warriors!
Anyway, I kept the magazine with that poem for years, going back to peruse "Fragile Wings" until the magazine got lost and I was unhappy about the loss of the poem.
So when I discovered that there was a whole book by the author of this poem, I made sure to get a copy, if only to see my beloved poem again.
("Fragile Wings" and many other poems by Bracha Goetz also appear in the book.)
And believe me, I wasn't disappointed.
Even though the writer starts off the book with her own junior high school years 20 years before I started my own junior high experience, so much rang true and felt so familiar. Like Bracha, I also remember that whole rush to "grow up," which actually didn't contain any growth or upward progression, but instead shoved you off to this discomfiting side dimension where you were left to sink or swim (which meant that most girls simply floundered). All of the sudden, there was this tremendous social pressure that literally came out of nowhere, and no one to discuss it with.
And then Bracha describes her eating disorders, her search for truth, the people she met along the way, her struggles, and she describes it all so authentically, but modestly too. There's a hindsight-lightness to even her heavier scenes, and also several guffaw-out-loud moments for the reader.
There are also several passages which made me think, "Omigosh, I cannot believe she's admitting this in public." But interestingly, this only made me like her even more. And I don't often feel this way when a writer starts getting "confessional," but there's something about the way that Bracha does it that's incredibly appealing.
Everyone has their own issues regardless of religious or irreligious their background, but women who did not grow up FFB definitely have specific issues that are barely acknowledged. (And these issues also differ in tone from generation to generation.) And it's not always a tsnius issue either. Even the most yeshivish frum communities secretly have mixed feelings about feminism (unexpressed uneasy gratitude, which in my opinion is misplaced), and this colors how frum women relate to the issues of women who aren't FFB.
Furthermore, while every single memoir or autobiographical article by a baal teshuvah always features people from upwardly mobile families and nice neighborhoods, baalei teshuvah who were academically successful and attended top-notch colleges, and then had a successful career (if they hadn't already become frum by that time) and possessing tremendous ambition -- and I was most definitely NEVER like that -- I could still relate to Bracha's memoir.
Also, I initially wasn't sure about the journal-entry/epistolary format, but partway through, I ended up feeling like this really was the best way to write this memoir.
Finally, what I loved most about this book is how much I liked the author (whom I've never met). It was a pleasure to spend virtual time with someone who is so funny, caring, real, and idealistic.
This book is definitely worth a read.