Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family

Stephen J. Dubner

Published by William Morrow, 1998
ISBN 10: 0688151809 / ISBN 13: 9780688151805
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Synopsis: Two years ago, Stephen J. Dubner wrote a cover story for the New York Times Magazine called "Choosing My Religion." It became one of the most widely discussed articles in the magazine's history. Turbulent Souls, the book that grew out of that article, is an intimate memoir of a man in search of a Jewish heritage he never knew he had. It is also a loving portrait of his parents.

Stephen Dubner's family was as Catholic as they come. His devout parents attended mass at every opportunity and named their eight children after saints. Stephen, the youngest child, became an altar boy, studied the catechism, and learned the traditional rituals of the Church -- never suspecting that the religion he embraced was not his by blood.

Turbulent Souls is Dubner's personal account of his family; tumultuous journey from Judaism to Catholicism -- and in his own case, back to Judaism -- and the effects, some tragic, some comic, of those spiritual transformations. His parents were Jews, born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents, but -- independent of each other and, indeed, before they met -- each converted to Christianity, only to be shunned by their families. After their marriage, they closed the door on Judaism so firmly that their children had no inkling that their background was far different from what it seemed: They didn't know, for instance, that their mother had a first cousin named Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed for treason in one of the most controversial cases of the cold war era.

Stephen Dubner's is a story about discovery: of relatives he never knew existed, of family history he'd never learned, and of a faith he'd never thought of as his own and, in fact, knew nothing about. It's a fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking exploration of a subject of intense interest to spiritually minded men and women everywhere.

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

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Title: Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return To ...
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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