Stephen J. Dubner

CHOOSING MY RELIGION A Memoir of a Family Beyond Belief
(2006) — Formerly Turbulent Souls (1998)

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"I knew that my family was unlike any other, and not just because of its size. On television — my parents had finally relented after years without a set — I had seen an Apollo rocket blurring through space. I knew this to be a marvel for everyone said so. But to me, it seemed fairly straightforward: a giant bottle rocket. My family was a far greater spectacle, an imponderably dense collection of bodies in orbit, laws and bylaws, public transactions and stolen privacies, exceptions and mysteries, all its energies directed toward a mission whose goal I couldn't articulate but that I knew to be centered on God. I wanted to know everything about this enterprise, and my want was only deepened by the realization that I never could."
— From Choosing My Religion

The youngest of eight children, Stephen J. Dubner grew up in a family that was industrious, rambunctious, and above all, Catholic. His parents were true believers, their faith extending to every corner of their lives. But they were also Jewish converts. During World War II, a beautiful ballerina named Florence Greenglass and a lonely soldier named Sol Dubner fell in love first with Catholicism and then with each other. The new life they created left no room for the old, and by the time Stephen was born, their pasts had been locked away.

Only when he reached his twenties did he discover his parents' extraordinary story, a story full of bitter estrangements, hard-fought triumphs, and deep secrets (Ethel Rosenberg, executed as an atomic spy in 1953, was his mother's first cousin). In excavating the story, he felt the tug of the religion his parents had abandoned and began to pursue it as vigorously as they had pursued their adopted faith. Along the way, he met dozens of his own Jewish relatives, traveled to his grandparents' shtetl in Poland, re-created the life of his late father, wrestled with the implications of the Holocaust, and saw his relationship with his mother curdle so thoroughly that it would fall to the Archbishop of New York, John Cardinal O'Connor, to help broker a peace.

Choosing My Religion is a luminous memoir, crafted with the eye of a journalist and the art of a novelist. In turns comic and heartbreaking, it tells the story of a family torn apart by religion, sustained by faith, and reunited by the truth that is revealed in these pages.