Alderman, Naomi 1974-
Alderman, Naomi 1974-
Born 1974, in London, England; daughter of Geoffrey Alderman (columnist and professor). Education: Graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University; University of East Anglia, M.A., 2003. Religion: Jewish.
Writer. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, London, England, and New York, NY, publications editor.
Orange Award for New Writers nomination, Asham award, and David Higham award, all 2006, all for Disobedience.
Disobedience (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Also contributor to Contains Small Parts: UEA Creative Writing Anthology 2003. Writer for Perplex City, an online alternative-reality game.
Naomi Alderman's debut novel, Disobedience, attracted considerable notice in England for its frank treatment of lesbianism within the relatively closed world of British Orthodox Jews. The book, considered the first novel since George Eliot's Daniel Deronda (1876) to deal with Orthodox Jews in England, tells the story of Ronit, the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, who leaves the restrictions of her life in London for the greater freedom of New York City. When her father dies and she returns to England, Ronit meets up again with a former lover, Esti, now the wife of the man due to become the rabbi's successor. Through the complex relationship between these two characters, Alderman examines the rigid expectations for women within the Orthodox community and gives voice to lives that often remain hidden from the mainstream. As Alderman noted in an interview with Benedicte Page in the Bookseller, "Orthodox Jews in Britain are a silent group, and within that, women are supposed to be silent. And within that, lesbians are probably the most silent of all."
The daughter of a well-known columnist for the Jewish Chronicle, Alderman grew up in an Orthodox family in London, but denies that her novel is autobiographical despite many similarities between her experiences and those of her protagonist. After studying philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford, Alderman took an editing job at a law firm in New York City. There she encountered Orthodox Jews who were much more openly engaged with society than those she had known in England—an experience she described to Scotsman contributor Julie Wheelwright as an "eye-opener." She also witnessed, from her office window, the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This event made her realize that her true ambition in life was to write. Returning to England, she enrolled in the creative writing program at the University of East Anglia, where she earned a master's degree in 2003.
Disobedience, which was praised in Publishers Weekly as an "entertaining debut," drew criticism from some Orthodox readers in England. Others, however, thanked Alderman for writing the book, and it was certainly a critical success given the many honors it received. The novel was nominated for the Orange Award for New Writers, and received an Asham award and the David Higham award.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Barbara Bibel, review of Disobedience, p. 36.
Bookseller, November 18, 2005, Benedicte Page, "Breaking the Silence: Naomi Alderman's Novel Looks inside the Closed World of Britain's Orthodox Jews," p. 21; May 5, 2006, "Orange Shortlist Unveiled," p. 8.
Guardian (London, England), February 20, 2006, Aida Edemariam, "There's Really Good Stuff in the Way I Was Brought Up. But Rubbish Stuff, Too."
Independent (London, England), February 24, 2006, Lisa Gee, review of Disobedience; March 12, 2006, David Mattin, "Are You Happy with a Nappy?"
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of Disobedience, p. 687.
Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Leora Bersohn, review of Disobedience, p. 66.
New York Times Book Review, November 26, 2006, Elsa Dixler, review of Disobedience, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006, review of Disobedience, p. 135.
Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland, March 4, 2006, Julie Wheelwright, "An Unorthodox Debut."
Times Literary Supplement, February 24, 2006, Toby Lichtig, "Ronit's Return," p. 19.
Something Jewish,http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/ (March 24, 2006), Cara Wides, interview with Naomi Alderman.
Naomi Alderman Web log,http://naomialderman.typepad.com/about.html (February 20, 2006).