Last fall, one of the new books I was most excited about was Hush by Eishes Chayil. This powerful novel takes on an insulated religious group through a fictionalized version of reality that takes on sexual abuse among Orthodox Jews. It is the story of a young girl named Gittel who has grown up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and it is all she knows. This is much like the author herself. Eishes Chayil is a pseudonym, meaning “woman of valor.” She used it to protect herself and her family from what would happen if she published a book that didn’t reflect well on the community.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the author revealed her real name in this essay in the Huffington Post, in which she said,
“For too long we have tiptoed around our flaws with fear and caution, pushing them into the shadows in hopes they will disappear. For too long, victims have been made to be the villains, and abuse was called loshon harah, evil talk. For too long, we have refused to honestly discuss the horrific possibilities, and in doing so allowed our children to fall victim to them. And for too long, I have allowed my own fear to make me part of a wall of silence — guilty for what I had seen, guilty for what I had written.
I refuse to continue to allow that fear to force me into hiding over a book that should have been written long ago. I no longer want to be known only as Eishes Chayil when my name is Judy Brown. I must find the courage to stand with the victims who carry the burden of our silence for the rest of their lives.”
This is remarkable. So very brave. I can’t help but think of times in my life when I have chosen to be silent rather than speak up for what I know is right. And I think of recent teen novels like Leverage and Crossing Lines, both of which deal with the decision to speak about bullying or to stay silent. To stay out of it. The temptation is very great to stay out of it, whatever it may be, but we can’t. We need to speak up, to tell the stories that save lives. We need to connect with the world around us rather than create walls out of the words we will not say or the topics we choose to avoid.
This is what will change our world.
More book recommendations on the For Secular Families page.