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Becoming Eve
Cover of Becoming Eve
Becoming Eve
My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman
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The powerful coming-out story of an ultra-Orthodox child who was born to become a rabbinic leader and instead became a woman


Abby Stein was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, isolated in a culture that lives according to the laws and practices of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, speaking only Yiddish and Hebrew and shunning modern life. Stein was born as the first son in a dynastic rabbinical family, poised to become a leader of the next generation of Hasidic Jews.
But Abby felt certain at a young age that she was a girl. She suppressed her desire for a new body while looking for answers wherever she could find them, from forbidden religious texts to smuggled secular examinations of faith. Finally, she orchestrated a personal exodus from ultra-Orthodox manhood to mainstream femininity-a radical choice that forced her to leave her home, her family, her way of life.
Powerful in the truths it reveals about biology, culture, faith, and identity, Becoming Eve poses the enduring question: How far will you go to become the person you were meant to be?

The powerful coming-out story of an ultra-Orthodox child who was born to become a rabbinic leader and instead became a woman


Abby Stein was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, isolated in a culture that lives according to the laws and practices of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, speaking only Yiddish and Hebrew and shunning modern life. Stein was born as the first son in a dynastic rabbinical family, poised to become a leader of the next generation of Hasidic Jews.
But Abby felt certain at a young age that she was a girl. She suppressed her desire for a new body while looking for answers wherever she could find them, from forbidden religious texts to smuggled secular examinations of faith. Finally, she orchestrated a personal exodus from ultra-Orthodox manhood to mainstream femininity-a radical choice that forced her to leave her home, her family, her way of life.
Powerful in the truths it reveals about biology, culture, faith, and identity, Becoming Eve poses the enduring question: How far will you go to become the person you were meant to be?

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About the Author-
  • Abby Stein is the tenth-generation descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic movement. In 2015, Stein came out as a woman, and she now works as a trans activist. In 2019, she served on the steering committee for the Women's March in Washington, DC, and she was named by the Jewish Week as one of the "36 Under 36" Jews who are affecting change in the world. She lives in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 29, 2019
    Trans activist Stein, a former member of the Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, plainly recalls her strict childhood and struggle to come out as transgender in an uneven debut that’s more focused on religion than identity. Stein, born in 1991, was her parents’ first “boy,” though she always secretly believed she was a girl. For Hasidic boys, “every minute spent on anything other than Jewish studies is wasted time,” Stein writes, focusing her narrative on her study of the Torah and Talmudic laws. One of the most captivating sections concerns her first sexual experiences, as a teenager with a male classmate. Her recollections of their clandestine encounters have more depth than later chapters, which feel oddly rushed as they recall life-altering moments (her marriage to a woman named Fraidy, the birth of their son when Stein was 20, her exit, in the last chapter, from the Hasidic community). It is only in the epilogue, set in 2015, that Stein comes out as transgender to her father, who rejects her, and mentions that she has started hormone replacement therapy. This is a valuable story but a frustratingly structured one; readers who wish to learn about Stein’s life as a transgender woman won’t find a wealth of detail here.

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2019
    A transgender woman recounts her evolution from a male-born child in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community to a thriving independent activist. In this coming-of-age memoir, Jewish educator and trans activist Stein describes her birth in 1991 as a firstborn son following five older sisters from parents who descended from rabbinic dynasties. She recalls a childhood steeped in staunch Hasidic theology in New York; she was forbidden from indulging in any cultural, historical, artistic, or other "spurned" activities. Throughout her youth, the author internally identified as female--she recalls how, at age 4, she became angry that she had a penis--and this frustration caused behavioral issues and depression in grade school and beyond. Stein gracefully describes an attraction "tingle" for a fellow male classmate when she was a teenager, which led to a nascent forbidden love and a much-awaited departure from her overly protracted childhood. Despite this clandestine interaction, the author still feared the consequences of going against the grain, so she proceeded, as tradition and gender roles dictated, to marry a woman at age 18 and bear a son at 20. Soon after, Stein became overwhelmingly frustrated by the state of her true identity. "It started punching me in the face," she admits. Consequently, she began the transitional process toward abandoning her Orthodox faith and becoming female, two decisions she knew were considered "deplorable" in the eyes of the Hasidic community. In the final chapter, the author chronicles coming out to her father (and his abrupt rejection) and her plans to become Abby. Unfortunately, these pages skimp on details about her post-transition lifestyle once she left the Hasidic community. Jewish readers focused on Stein's rabbinic upbringing, Talmudic cultural experiences, and the significance of studying the Torah will find a wealth of emotionally limned anecdotes. However, the author's life as a woman without familial support or reliance on the Jewish community receives too little attention. A sometimes-illuminating yet unbalanced journey into true identity and out of the Hasidic faith.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    November 15, 2019
    Born into an ultraorthodox Hasidic family, Stein was a direct descendant of the founder of Hasidic Judaism and, accordingly, was regarded as a prince. Ironically, in her mind she was more princess than prince because, from an early age, she knew that she was a girl trapped in a boy's body. Forced to live a secret life antithetical to her own self-knowledge, and being constantly told boys were better than girls in one of the most gender-segregated societies in America, she began questioning everything, including her religion (she lost her faith at 12 and yet became an ultraorthodox rabbi). Stein became a gadfly at school, routinely acting out, constantly in trouble, and plagued by depression. The focus remains largely on her student years and Hasidic culture. Interesting as that is, readers might want more about her trans identity. She didn't come out until her early twenties, and that process is dealt with only in the final two chapters. Nevertheless, as a book about a transgender Hasidic Jew, this is a valuable addition to the body of transgender literature.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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Becoming Eve
Becoming Eve
My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman
Abby Stein
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