Hush

Hush

by Eishes Chayil

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Overview

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before-and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteenyear- old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to convince Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.

A nuanced exploration of a complex world, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802723321
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/28/2012
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 242,632
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

EISHES CHAYIL is a pseudonym meaning woman of valor, chosen by JUDY BROWN when Hush was first published because of feared backlash from her community. Since publication, Judy's identity has been revealed, she has left the Chassidic community, and she has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine. Judy was raised in a world of Chassidic schools, synagogues, and summer camps and is a direct descendant of the major founders of and leaders in the Chassidic world. She holds a master's degree in creative writing and has worked as a journalist for several international Orthodox newspapers. She lives in New York City.

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Hush 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
IshChayal More than 1 year ago
On the surface, Hush is a now all too familiar tale - a young girl witnesses/experiences sexual abuse, lacks the context and ability to deal with it as a child and then has to grapple with the impact it has on her as an adult. But there is much more here than the surface. For one, there is the voice. In the hands of Aishes Chayil, Gittel emerges as one of the most unique voices in children's fiction in quite some time. She is both heartbreakingly naive and devastatingly aware, her sheltered innocence slowly giving away to something adult and knowing, yet never losing her pureness of tone. In the hands of a lesser author this would be an accomplishment - what makes Aishes Chayil's feat all the more masterful is the dual time periods of the book. Someone, she bridges the gap between the adult Gittel and the child Gittel - we never loses sight of who Gittel is and her unique, often whimsical point of view, and yet, with subtle strokes and shadings, the demarcation between child and adult is beautifully depicted. Finally, there is the tenderness with which Eishes Chayil manages to infuse her depiction of the Chassidic community. In a book like this, it would be all too easy to turn the community into a black and white cartoon of close minded cruelty. But Eishes Chayil does something truer here - she shows the community as it is, its strength, it's beauty and yes, its tragic flaws. She doesn't preach, she doesn't condemn she simply shows. And in showing she points the hard finger of truth where it needs to be pointed. Similarly, her characterizations are nuanced and shaded. Again, in a book like this, it would be easy to paint the men as patriarchal and oppressive and the women as docile and cowed. Eishes Chayil does something truer, particularly in her depiction of Gittel's father and later her husband. This story and its exquisite craftsmanship linger in my thoughts days after I've finished it, and I'm sure it will reward anyone fortunate enough to encounter it with the same.
AndyAC More than 1 year ago
Though a book about the Hassidic Community, it could be written about any group of people. Sadly, it is what we do. We keep quiet about such horrible abuses of our children, especially if by another family member. Choosing to believe instead, that the child is lying. A child who can't possibly have the words yet, or understand what is happening. Priests are sent to another parish, teachers to another school and sons............to Israel. We Jews are particularly skittish about letting the world at large know that we too are human and have all the same human failties as the rest of the world. I believe we would get more respect by letting the world at large know that no one will get away with hurting our children......no one. This book is about the bravery and suffering of two little girls. It's a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is well written and seems to convey an honest and realistic view of the strengths and weakneses of the chassidic community.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gittel¿s best friend Devory hanged herself when they were ten, and now, at seventeen and on the cusp of being married to a proper Jewish boy, Gittel finds horrible guilty memories surfacing. For Gittel believes that the death was her fault: she should¿ve told someone about Devory¿s increasing refusal to sleep at home, the way her older brother came into her bed on the night Gittel slept over.But in their intensely Jewish Brooklyn community, to speak of such things is to bring shame upon your family and lower your marriage prospects. But when does the price of keeping one¿s reputation become too high to pay?HUSH, Eishes Chayil¿s pseudonymously written debut novel, is an astonishing look into the highs and lows of an incredibly insular community. It will bring you to your knees, laughing and crying, and is the type of book that you¿ll want to pass around to everyone, regardless of their age.Eishes Chayil makes you feel as if you are truly part of Gittel¿s Jewish community. You have grown up surrounded by these people, raised on the prejudices and traditions and beliefs of the community. Some of them, such as being suspicious of the goyim and rejecting anything that has to do with them, may seem oddly backwards to many readers; however, HUSH is not merely a direct condemnation of the unchanging traditions that killed Devory, but a celebration also. This is a community where arranged marriages before the age of 20 are still the norm, where men and women are separated and have clearly defined domestic roles¿and they like that. Instead of feeling like an outsider, we quickly begin to feel like we are part of Gittel¿s world: Eishes Chayil builds up a thoroughly complete Jewish world without resorting to ¿as you see, reader¿ explanations.Devory¿s sexual abuse and subsequent suicide are at the core of this book, but the book deals less with the actual event itself than with its emotional aftermath on a bystander who is silenced by her community, unable to carry out justice for her friend. The only way to ensure a powerful emotional reaction to Devory¿s and other Jewish children¿s sufferings was to provide a sharp contrast to it, which is why most of the book is spent building up the community and culture. Devory¿s suffering is mentioned almost like an aside, the way a naïve 10-year-old narrator would reasonably note it, and it is in fact this contrast, this appalling lack of attention paid it by the rest of the community, mirrored in the actual narration, is the best way Eishes Chayil could¿ve slammed it into our faces.And yet within this serious story is room for normal 10-year-old fun and games. The chapters alternate between 10-year-old Gittel and 17/18-year-old Gittel, the older narrator struggling with whether or not she should tell others what happened to Devory, the younger flitting in and out of typical preadolescent adventures. Certainly young Gittel¿s spiritedness adds a layer of heartbreaking fun to this commitment-heavy novel, but older characters give us their fair share of laughs too. I nearly burst out laughing in the middle of a crowded hallway at the scenes involving Gittel¿s impending marriage. Suffice it to say that, despite the serious topic, HUSH also gives us plenty of things to smile about, scenes that actually make the core issue of sexual abuse all the more powerful.The last time I remember reading something this intelligently, creatively, and heartwrenchingly written was for a high school summer reading list. The contrast between the rich Jewish community and the horror of the sexual abuse problem accentuates both in the most effective way possible. Full of laughter and tears, HUSH has all the makings of a modern classic, and is the type of book that truly deserves to be talked about, awarded, and recognized for years to come.
ChristianR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very special book, for many reasons. It is written from the point of view of Gittel, both as a young girl and as a newlywed, who is a member of an ultra-orthodox Jewish community. Gittel's best friend Devory killed herself at age nine because her brother had sexually abused her but no one had listened to her or done anything to help her, and Gittel, who witnessed some of the abuse, could never forgive herself. The community, though, simply pretended Devory had never existed and expected Gittel to forget all about Devory.The reader is beautifully introduced to the close-knit, and closed-off, world of these sects. We see the good in them as well as the bad. It is a fascinating world. I only wish I understood how they all survive financially since most of the men apparently only study and the women only sometimes seem to work.Finally, the author also captured the essence of being a child. She is a very skilled writer and I hope she writes more, though it appears that her mission is to knock down the barriers that keep then from acknowledging that sexual abuse occurs within their community as well as outside of it. Good luck to her. I highly recommend her book.
530nm330hz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Hush" is a fictionalized narrative based on the horrific reality of child rape among Chassidim, and the cultural insistence that "such things don't happen here" and the ostracization of those who break the black-hat line of silence. Those who read the Failed Messiah blog will be sadly aware that such things happen. So for the author to write such a book, even under a pseudonym, is itself an amazing act of courage.It is all the more remarkable, then, that this book succeeds as a work of narrative. The characters are compelling even as we react in horror to their version of reality. The depiction of a world almost but not quite like our own is vivid. The voice of a nine-year-old girl who alternates between certainty that she knows how everything in the world works and doubting everything she's been taught is believable. The pacing, while occasionally uneven, is pretty good.And most importantly, the end of the book avoids the two obvious traps: it is neither overly maudlin nor neatly pat. (It does fall briefly into the third obvious trap, which is that it gets briefly meta; I'm not sure that could have been avoided.) And while parts of the denouement surprised me, they were within character. And I cried.This is a must-read for many of the people who follow my blog. It is a powerful picture of certain segments of Chassidus and their worldview (completely aside from the subject of abuse). It is a damning indictment of the silence that has enabled rapists and abusers to get away with it. And it is a well-written book. (Obviously, given the subject matter, this may be "triggery" for some readers; I'm not qualified to provide any additional guidance on that point.)
Lcanon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall a very good book and I think it has something to say about any religious community of any faith which puts up walls and then designates everyone outside the walls as "evil." There's a lot here about manipulation and about finding your way in a complex world. There's also a lot of love here, for Judaism itself, for her family, for her way of life. This gives the book a great poignancy.
psteinke1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hush is the story of a girl, Gittel, and the aftermath of her best friend¿s death at 9 years of age. The story takes place in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community¿with all its emphasis on traditions dating back hundreds of years. How does one go about dealing with an all too real monster of abuse and still live within the rules and guidelines of a religion that never dreamt of the horrors around today?Hush was a tough read for a number of reasons. I grew up around a lot of Moderate and Reformed Jews, attended a lot of Passover Seders, and learned my fair share of Yiddish. I knew the Hassidic Community was Ultra-Orthodox but never imagined how different it was then the friends I had growing up.This book was a lesson in Hassidic life. It was a lesson I was at odds with many times throughout the book. I¿d like to think that I am very open-minded, especially when it comes to someone¿s religious beliefs¿I couldn¿t help but feel so sad for a group of people who are taught that love isn¿t important, and that everything is done out of obligation, such as marriage. Marriage isn¿t about love but about procreation. It was also very hard to discover that sexual molestation runs rampant in the Hassidic community and that the author, using a pseudonym, was, in effect, relating her personal story. The pervasive need to keep quiet about these things for fear of being ostracized¿that would be the victim and his/her family that fear being ostracized. The predator, if in a position of power is usually moved to a different position of power. Yes, just like priests in the Catholic Church were in the past.Ultimately, this was a very powerful read and I applaud the author for getting attention on the matter. I sincerely pray that all communities, religious or otherwise, will find the strength to punish these monsters rather than do the easy thing and turn a blind eye, for the children¿s sake.
bibliophile.brouhaha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do you remember studying the Holocaust in grade school? There was a famous saying that you probably learned:¿First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.¿ ¿Martin Niemoeller Niemoeller¿s immortal and pointed statement on the dangers of political and moral apathy could easily be applied to the small, sequestered community that Gittel and her dearest friend, Devory, live in, located in Brooklyn, NYC. This is a community of ulra-orthodox Jews, and reading Hush is like stepping into a world that you know exists, but the customs and beliefs that they practice are, on the whole, far more foreign than familiar. This story essentially is about three things: a beautiful and enduring friendship between two little girls, a community who hurts its most innocent members in a misdirected and fatal attempt at protecting itself, and how ignorance and fear condemns victims, not the perpetrators.Central to the story are Gittel (the narrator) and Devory. They were born on the same day at the same hospital and have been best friends ever since. Gittel is a wonderful narrator, and the best way I can describe her is that she¿s a cross between Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and Eloise from Eloise. She is spunky, energetic, and makes observations that are profound in the eyes of a nine-year-old, but ironic and whimsical to the reader. Devory is a bit wilder and often acts out. There is a good reason why she does: Devory is being sexually molested by an older family member. Devory does not have a word to explain what is happening to her. She has nothing to call it. Such things do not exist in their world, the world of the chosen people, all of whom are going to Heaven. It¿s only when Devory¿s behavior deteriorates and Gittel witnesses the abuse that things come to a head.The story is separated into two sections. In the first section, the narrative flips back and forth between 1999- 2000, when the girls are nine, and 2008, when Gittel is preparing to graduate from high school and looking forward to becoming engaged. Devory is no longer there. Gittel communicates with her by letter throughout the book. It¿s the only way she can communicate with Devory. You learn on the first page of the story that Devory is dead.This is a multi-layered story with no easy answers and many victims. The community is a well-oiled machine, and social reputation and placement are everything. In the everyday status quo, there is a lot of love and security in the community, and you see this especially in the relationship between Gittel and her father. The also pride themselves on taking care of their own and providing for the least of their community. However, they are distinctly uncharitable toward those who do not act in a proper way, come from a family with a bad history, or who could in any way bring shame upon a family or the community at large. Thus, when something shameful happens, it is hushed up rather than dealt with. By default, Devory is condemned to death. People knew something was wrong. Not one person told the absolute truth, but they knew enough to help her if they wanted to admit what was going on. The stakes are high ¿ speaking out against your fellow Jew literally is a horrible sin, an absolute evil. When someone does try to speak out about something, they bring shame upon themselves and their families. At the least, the community will completely ostracize them; at worst, they may be physically attacked. Gittel spends a good amount the book dealing with her guilt, growing to adulthood with her frozen-in-time best friend haunting her dreams and sharing her thoughts. It¿s not all doom and gloom. There truly is a sense of community here, and the fri
jenniferthomp75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A brilliant debut novel. Eishes Chayil (a pseudonym that translates to "woman of valor") delves into the world of the Chassidim in Borough Park, Brooklyn. The novel focuses on Gittel, a young woman who, when she was 9, witnessed the rape of her best friend. Gittel's family and the community ignore what happened and try to make Gittel forget as well.This is a fascinating look into an insular community where sexual abuse is often buried due to the societal repercussions.Highly recommended and a definite contender for the Mock Printz.
jewortsman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great look at how a community can deny what is happening and the long term damage it causes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gives one an inside look at life inside a secret group without outsiders knowing.
sharon1JT More than 1 year ago
This very excellent book is about a child who was being abused. The signs were all there, but nobody noticed, or ignored. It’s also about the reluctant courage of another child. This book will make you laugh, be angry, and so very sad that this horror could and does happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think i would like to read this book. It sounds interesting and i like books like this, plus my name is chayil ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting book and a quick page turner. It explains a lot about the life and role of a Chassidic woman. It is also very disturbing and depressing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend requested I read this book so that I could discuss it with her. This was one of the best books I have read this year. The writing style and subject matter captured my interest from page one. Eishes Chayil captures the innocence, the guilt, the childish thoughts of one too young to have experienced such ugliness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and informative about the secrets and motivations of a community that most of us who are not part of the orthodox society find puzzling and in some instances, inconceivable. It was a surprise to learn the real purpose of the book as explained in the author's notes based on her own experience. Would definitely recommend it. A good book for discussion.
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