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Turbulent Souls:: A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family Paperback – Bargain Price, October 1, 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Choosing My Religion," Stephen Dubner's 1996 cover story for The New York Times Magazine, described his conversion from Catholicism to Judaism. The drama and complexity of Dubner's conversion were intensified by the author's unusual religious history: before Dubner was born, his parents had made an equal and opposite conversion from Judaism to Catholicism. Dubner's memoir, Turbulent Souls, expands the story he first told in the Times essay. In the book's prelude, Dubner explains that he began his wandering toward conversion in the 1980s when he moved to New York City, "the most Jewish city outside of Israel."
There a certain disquietude began to take root inside me. I could not name this force, but neither could I make it leave me. And so I followed the noise inside my soul, and before long it led me back to my parents. I became consumed with a desire to know how a pair of young Jews named Florence Greenglass and Sol Dubner had become my Catholic parents.
Turbulent Souls is full of loving, witty anecdotes about his childhood in rural New York state (he refers to Mrs. Ferry, a catechism teacher who gave him Doublemint gum, as "Blessed Angel of the Sugar Deprived") and his efforts in adulthood to reconstruct both his and his parents' pasts. The best reason to read this book is Dubner's well-balanced thirst for explanation and reverence for mystery; it's a model of the equilibrium every one of us has to attain if we want to make peace with our families, our home towns, and our selves. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Dubner takes a searing and poignant look at his upbringing in a large, boisterous and fiercely devout Catholic family and his subsequent conversion to Judaism?the faith his parents discarded in their youth in favor of Catholicism. His parents' conversion was a torturous affair for their families, but Dubner, the youngest of eight children, grew up oblivious to his religious roots. "For all I knew about Jews," he says, "my parents might just as well have been Baptists, or Elks, or carnival workers." His naivete ended when as an adult he began a spiritual quest, seeking out his relatives, especially his mother, for answers about religion. Dubner eventually embraced Judaism as his own. Heartbroken, his mother, who had devoted her life to Christ, couldn't understand why "for whatever reason, the idea of Jesus the Messiah had never lodged itself inside [Dubner's heart]." Dubner's skillful storytelling creates a captivating narrative. He writes of his childhood, "Ours was an existence circumscribed by Mass and catechism, rustling hay rakes and muddy fishing ponds, the kids you could play with (the churchgoing Catholics) and those you couldn't." Sentences like this bring alive all the joy, confusion, heartache and reparation of this family.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038072930X
  • ASIN: B000HXDKAM
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,277,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Some people are blessed with the ability to be religious and become true-believers. Others are blessed with the peace of being atheist. When Stephen Dubner wrote an article on how he grew up devoutly Catholic, discovered that both his parents were converts from Judaism, and then returned to his family's Jewish roots, it became The Times's most talked about article of the year. After the Sunday magazine article appeared, he was deluged by letters and calls either inviting him to temples and Sabbath dinners, or criticizing him for returning to the myths and oppression of religion. But now Stephen has expanded on his article by recounting in detail his deeply personal journey from Catholicism to Judaism. It is about religion, spirituality, hidden family histories, confusion, parents, siblings, as well as the tension, comic errors, and confusion his search and return created. Broken into three sections, Dubner focuses on the paths his mother (Miriam/Mary)and father (Solly/Paul) took to Catholicism, their Jewish roots, the reactions from their family members (sitting shiva), their marriage, and early wedded life, in Section One. Section Two begins with the birth of their eighth child Stephen J. (all the kids got a first or middle name of wither Joseph or Mary), and Stephen's life in rural New York that rotated around Mass, the Catholic feasts, and catechism; and Section Three focuses on Stephen's interest in Judaism, his search for Jewish relatives, his quest to learn more about his father (who died suddenly after giving a speech at a charismatic-Catholic prayer meeting), and his trip back. Basically, this poignant tale is a must read for Fall/Winter 98.
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Format: Paperback
turbulent souls was an apt title for this book written by my brother as we both grew up in this soulful,turbulent family, although with differing viewpoints of what exactly turbulent meant. i was amazed at how stephen's thoughts were so deep and questioning, as he appeared to be a quiet, calm and even content youngster while we were growing up. stephen was always affable and agreeable as a boy, and i was flabbergasted to realize how he really felt about the Faith. i had no trouble believing what our parents, especially our mother, told us about Jesus, Heaven and all that went with it, however i truly with that i had known more about my jewish roots when i was young; i, like my brother, felt a great sense of loss of past heritage and with it, even self. when stephen hosted a wonderful reunion with about 80 relatives, some of whom i had never even heard of, i was happy beyond words. for the unconditional love of these people, my people, went beyond words--it was almost an unspoken vow of love, of knowing, of acceptance. i could feel my father's spirit smiling down on us, he was so happy, because the truth was out, and the wrongs of the past had been righted. on reading the book, i felt the deep hurt of my father's rejection by his father and family, and resented them for suddenly showing up at his funeral when i was a teen-ager, after ignoring us for so many years. i was angry with my mother for not telling me about family secrets, and for not letting stephen just be himself. why did she have to try to control everyone, even their thoughts? but i, like stephen, came to peace and terms with our mother, although i still wish that i had known my heritage with all it's richness and history and yes, dark secrets, too.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Dubner, a former New York Times writer and editor, has written a deeply moving, heartfelt memoir of the struggles of two generations to find a religious home. His parents, both raised in Jewish homes (one devoutly orthodox and the other largely secular) by first-generation immigrants from Russia and Poland, reach adulthood during the turbulent years of World War II. Both his father and his mother grapple with their Jewish tradition and their personal religious beliefs and, ultimately, become converts to Roman Catholicism. Like many converts, the decision by Stephen's parents to adopt a new religion is not made lightly and results in a deeply didactic religious practice. Stephen grows up in a home where devout Catholic religious practice is the norm and where little is ever mentioned about the Jewish tradition his parents have rejected. As an adult, Stephen embarks on his own religious search, inheriting the same "turbulent soul" that had so deeply marked his parents' lives. Dubner aptly quotes John Henry Newman, the famous Anglican cardinal who converted to Roman Catholicism, who says, "who can know himself and the multitude of subtle influences which act upon him." He then explores, in wonderfully clear and readable prose, the many subtle influences which marked his parents' soul-searching religious struggles, as well as his own. Dubner's exploration leads him to learn more about his parents and their lives, the history of his family and its Eastern European Jewish roots, and, ultimately, to an understanding and reconciliation with his mother, who maintains her firm Catholic convictions to the end, even as Dubner returns to the Jewish faith of his grandparents.Read more ›
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