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Treyf : My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw

Treyf : My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw

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By Elissa Altman

“[A] gorgeously-written . . . brave and generous memoir” about growing up in a family with conflicting ideas about being Jewish and finding your own path (Dani Shapiro, New York Times–bestselling author of Inheritance).

Though culturally Jewish, Elissa Altman was not raised religious. Her mother, an aspiring actor, didn’t feel the ancient teachings of the Talmud were relevant to modern life. Her father, the son of a cantor whose family died in the Holocaust, was the consummate rule breaker, caught between his spiritual hunger and his ongoing culinary affair with shellfish and spam—all things treyf, that which is unkosher and therefore forbidden. Altman’s youth was laced with contradiction and hope, betrayal and the yearning to belong. Synagogue on Saturday and Chinese pork ribs on Sunday. Bacon for breakfast before going to visit her orthodox grandparents.

Longing for the religious traditions that grounded her friends’ lives, Altman attended Hebrew school, only to discover her own prohibited desire for other women. After her parents’ marriage fell apart, Altman found a haven at her grandmother’s house, cooking meals that made her feel whole again while embracing her homosexuality. Her story is a poignant, humorous and uplifting account of learning how to honor your past while becoming your most authentic self.

“What makes Treyf so original is the author’s wry humor and her gimlet eye. . . . Her prose shines.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A beautiful, brilliant memoir filled with striking images, unforgettable people, and vivid stories. . . . Wrought with such visceral love that the pages shimmer.” —Kate Christensen, author of Blue Plate Special

“Gorgeous, singular, heartbreaking, haunting.” —Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

“Hard to put down.” —Booklist

“Poignant and life-affirming.” —Kirkus Reviews

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