“Berliner finds the bridge between ecstatic and carnal.” —Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author
“Hilarious and endearing...a dirty book with a pure heart.” —The New York Times
In this witty, provocative, and unputdownable debut novel a young Hasidic woman on a quest to get married fears she will never find a groom because of her secret addiction to porn.
Like the other women in her Brooklyn Hasidic community, Raizl expects to find a husband through an arranged marriage. Unlike the other women, Raizl has a secret.
With a hidden computer to help her complete her college degree, she falls down the slippery slope of online pornography. As Raizl dives deeper into the world of porn at night, her daytime life begins to unravel. Between combative visits with her shrink to complicated arranged dates, Raizl must balance her growing understanding of her sexuality with the more conventional expectations of the family she loves.
A singular, stirring, and compulsively readable debut novel, Shmutz explores what it means to be a fully realized sexual and spiritual being caught between the traditional and modern worlds.
Felicia Berliner has an MFA from Columbia University. Shmutz is her first novel.
“Shmutz is a dirty book with a pure heart, though the story was wrapped up before I was ready to leave Raizl’s wonderfully horny head. Let her laptop burn forever into the night.” —The New York Times
"Transgressive and hilarious, Raizl’s story questions everything we think we know about women, desire and religious faith.” —Los Angeles Times
“In a voice evocative of Erica Jong, Felicia Berliner answers the Rothian tradition in Shmutz . . . Desire and guilt, faith and ecstasy—Berliner proves that such human categories are never diametrically opposed, but rather always enmeshed together in the throes of their own combative passion.” —The Millions
“Seriously juicy . . . A compulsively readable coming-of-age story.” —Cosmopolitan
“[A] sharply observant novel.” —Jewish Book Council
“Berliner’s memorable debut…shines in her depictions of a deeply religious life, both in its inequities and its enchantments.... This brave, eye-opening tale is full of surprises.” —Publishers Weekly
“Shmutz to me, as a native Yiddish speaker, is first and foremost a love note to my Mama Lushun (Mother Tongue). This book is a beautiful creation, both as a powerful story of a community that rarely talks about life's most basic nature: love, romance, and sex—intertwined with the richness of our language.” —ABBY CHAVA STEIN, author of Becoming Eve
“Shmutz is a provocative and propulsive debut. Felicia Berliner comes to this story with a deep tenderness for her characters and a keen feel for the pain that arises when desire collides with custom. Shmutz probes the desperation of being caught in systems, both religious and secular, bent on telling everybody, but especially women, who they should be and what they should want.” —SAM LIPSYTE, author of Hack
“I read this pitch-perfect debut all in one sitting, barely breathing until I’d reached the stunning, poignant conclusion. I’m in awe of Felicia Berliner’s wisdom and insight into the human condition and her virtuosic ability to turn a highly specific story into a thoroughly universal one.” —JOANNA RAKOFF, author of My Salinger Year
“Malamud meets Melissa Broder in this deeply charming, soulful novel. Not since Eve tasted the forbidden fruit has a story about curiosity and shame felt so vital. Berliner has given us a true comedy: beautifully rendered, fully earned, and suffused with love.” —ELISA ALBERT, author of Human Blues