Reviews of Turning Back: The Personal Journey of a “Born-Again” Jew (a memoir)
“A great book. And one everyone ought to read: Turning Back...is really what every first-rate book about religious transformation ought to be: intensely personal, rich in human detail, and alive with the tensions of changing lifestyles, personal collisions, doubts, desires, disappointments, surprises — and, among all that, an inner drive to get hold of an elusive reality that only a certain kind of religious life seems to offer.” , blogger at Unorthodox-Jew (October 2020).
“A spiritual biography that is every bit as iconoclastic as [Lesher’s] liberal political approach to Jewish life in the United States and in Israel... Weaving in some academic sources to augment his poetic voice, Lesher’s literary skill...is making the unfamiliar (to him, at first; to non-Orthodox Jews and to non-Jews) seem familiar.” , former staff writer for the Jewish Week, on Off-Guardian (December 2020).
“As you read his story, you are drawn into his world. Captured in the poetic atmosphere he describes, you feel as though you are standing right beside him throughout his journey. Eloquently written with a touch of subtle humour...” , on her blog, A Gentile with a Jewish Heart (October 2020).
“[A] fascinating book by Michael Lesher about becoming an Orthodox Jew. If you’re a returnee to Judaism, a Jew-by-Choice, or just someone who likes a good memoir, you’ll appreciate this one!” , on the Accidental Talmudist blog (October 2020).
“Fascinating and elegantly written...Lesher is a terrific storyteller.... Throughout the book the reader will find golden nuggets of words and phrases.... I’ve not been reviewing many books this year...but when Lesher wrote to me and described his book, I was willing to have a look. I’m glad I did.” , on Bill’s Faith Matters blog (November 2020).
“One of the most illuminating and gifted memoirs I’ve ever read...a gift to every reader who has been at the crossroads, once, twice, thrice, or always... We are...blessed to have this modern-day memoir that explores, examines and questions with penetrating acuity some of the most fundamental values of Jewish life that most of us don’t have the time to inspect.” , in the San Diego Jewish World (December 2020).
Reviews of Surfaces (a collection of poems)
“Challenges the reader to unearth the meaning inside it...: Surfaces...is a work of art, which challenges the reader to unearth the meaning inside it...Michael’s poems are sensual, often erotic, and at times serving as a bridge between the body and the world of politics.” From an on-line review by Jonathan Ofir—conductor, musician, blogger and columnist for Mondoweiss (February 2020).
“This is not a review, it is a leak! I am releasing, letting out, a fragment from Michael Lesher’s new collection of poems. I want you to know what is currently under wraps, incommunicado between the necessary covers of this intriguing book. You should know what Mr. Lesher is up to...” , poet (January 2020).
Reviews of Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment
“A powerful plea for victims of sexual abuse: Lesher...accepts the prophetic mantle and...argues passionately for the powerless.” , Providence Journal (September 7, 2014).
“[A] searing indictment of putative religious Jews—from Modern Orthodox Jews to chasidic and the black hat, yeshivish community—who have in effect reintroduced a system of child sacrifice, sacrificing the interests of children (young boys and girls are overwhelmingly the victims of Orthodox Judaism’s sexual abusers) to those of the accused abusers and to the Orthodox community’s perceived image in wider society.” , The Jewish Week (March 3, 2015).
“Hopefully the book will address in a comprehensive way the conflict many Orthodox Jews feel over this issue, and bring validity to victims and healing to communities.” , Jewish Business News (September 8, 2014).
“[Lesher] demonstrates how rabbis and community leaders have sided with alleged abusers against their victims, and how victims have been pressured not to turn to secular law enforcment.” , ProtoView, pp. 2-3 (October 1, 2014).
“Shonda...is a clear-headed, investigative account of the systematic protection of child sex abusers, and corollary silencing of child sex abuse victims, in Orthodox Jewish communities.... How do our attitudes, our prejudices, blind us to suffering? How can we stop? How can we begin to see, and begin to heal? For the readers who want to answer those questions, this is a book for you.” , Space Station Mir, December 12, 2014. (Selected by the editor as one of the of the year.)
“” select Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment as “Book of the Week,” August 20, 2014.
Reviews of From Madness to Mutiny
“Groundbreaking Book: From Madness to Mutiny... offers a comprehensive set of legislative and policy changes that, if adopted, could help to transform our family courts from instruments of punishment to true institutions of justice.” In Bergen County, The Magazine (September/October 2005).
“From Madness to Mutiny ... the culmination of 20 years of research, studies the cases of 1,000 women across the country who reported that their children had been the victims of sexual abuse, only to find themselves attacked by the family court system, often losing custody of their children.” , The Jewish Advocate, Boston (May 27, 2005)
“... a book shining an unflinching light on the abuses [mothers] have suffered at the hands of misguided family court judges with too much absolute power and too little critical oversight is the only Mother's Day gift that matters. And while it is often tempting to look away from the unvarnished truth, you will find this a hard book to put down, because it is a book that matters.” , The Residential, Edgewater, NJ (May 2005)
“Sociologist Amy Neustein and Attorney Michael Lesher paint a frightening portrait of how the American legal system oftentimes victimizes children who have been allegedly sexually abused by their fathers.... The analysis of specific court cases, family court proceedings...and judicial reform (or lack thereof) make From Madness to Mutiny a compelling, if emotionally difficult, read.” , Women's Studies 34:521-528, September 2005 (Routledge/Taylor and Francis).
“From Madness to Mutiny...is one of the most disturbing books that I have reviewed. After getting past the horrendous accounts of injustice, the importance of the book is quite evident. It contributes not only to the sociology of the family, but also to our understanding of the inequities within the criminal justice system for women and children. Neustein and Lesher draw attention to an issue that warrants much more attention from researchers, policy-makers, and the general public.... This book will appeal not only to family researchers across disciplines, but also to people who work with and advocate for children.” , Contemporary Sociology 35(5):478-479, September 2006 (posted here by permission of the American Sociological Association).
“Amy Neustein and Michael Lesher have produced a searing and profoundly disturbing indictment of family courts in the United States.... They provide an unusually rich and detailed documentation of how the U.S. family court system fails to protect children who have been sexually abused by their fathers and punishes the mothers who bring good-faith accusations of this sexual abuse.... One defining feature of their research is, in fact, the analysis of a single case during its lifetime. It is this feature that allows the authors to tell such poignant and painful real-life stories.... In the second section of Part III, the authors propose their specific reforms for the family courts.... I commend Neustein and Lesher for their major contribution to this struggle.” , Violence Against Women 12(5):519-525, May 2006 (Sage Publications).
“In From Madness to Mutiny Neustein and Lesher review and reflect on documents from more than 4,000 cases.... Theirs is a brave and much needed effort. From Madness to Mutiny is published in in one of today's more prominent university press criminal justice series. I thank them and Neustein and Lesher for the courage and skill to bring this problem to broader social attention.” , National Women's Studies Association, 18(1):230-232, Spring 2006 (Indiana University Press).
“From Madness to Mutiny is the first scholarly and comprehensive study to date of the phenomenon. The book documents case after case where accusations of sexual abuse resulted in forced contact with the alleged abuser, and sometimes complete termination of parental contact with a loving parent who seeks only to protect the child.” , Family Violence & Sexual Assault Bulletin, 21(2), 2005.
“Neustein and Lesher elegantly describe the upside-down, inside-out, Alice-in-Wonderland framework that permeates the family courts.... From Madness to Mutiny takes the doors off the Potemkin village-like family courthouse to reveal the perverse reasoning of judges, attorneys, and favored psychological 'experts' and the secret proceedings and money-and-power-driven culture that result in legal outcomes ranging from unjust to harmful to atrocious.... Absent the total 'rebirthing' of the system called for by Neustein and Lesher, the family courts are like a ship whose captain and crew have gone utterly mad, whose only chance of redemption is mutiny by the passengers.” , Criminal Justice Review, 33(1), March 2008, pp. 118-120 (Georgia State University Research Foundation, Inc./Sage Publications).
“Dr. [Judith] Herman was correct when she stated ‘Atrocities...refuse to be buried. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.’ Neustein and Lesher’s book takes important steps toward these crucial goals.” , New York Law Journal, July 12, 2006 (pg. 2).
“From Madness to Mutiny...is the first scholarly volume to analyze the process and the consequences of systems failure in the family court, the place where such a failure has the most devastating effect on the most vulnerable members of society: children.... [I]t is a volume that belongs on the bookshelf of every professional who deals with child custody and child abuse, from lawyers and judges to psychologists and social workers.” , Journal of Child Custody, July 2009, 6:326-332.
“I highly recommend From Madness to Mutiny as required reading in family law courses in our law schools as well for trainings for judges, therapists, social workers, child protective services and law enforcement as well as for anyone who is writing seriously about child abuse. Most of all, I applaud Neustein and Lesher for putting a book into the hands of so many protective mothers (or other protective relatives) that will let them know that they are not alone and that they are not crazy for wanting to do everything in their power to protect their precious children.” , Sexual Assault Report (May/June 2005).
“... [T]he book presents significant evidence of systemic failure...it is an important reminder of the need for very thorough and careful investigation of and hearing on all charges of child abuse and custodial conditions.” , Professor, , in discussion of books nominated for the annual Scribes Prize from the American Society of Writers on Legal Subjects, August 2006.
“Make sure everyone knows about the incredible new book available from entitled From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts--and What Can Be Done about It by Amy Neustein and Michael Lesher. If every one of us sent one copy of this book to our local Family Law Judge we would see a huge change in how these cases are handled. I sent one copy to one judge who cares, and he sent 25 copies to 25 other judges, on his own steam and at his own expense! Please try this.” , Executive Director, , Berkeley, CA, in post to email list, October 18, 2005.
“This volume will be revealing and distressing to those readers who have never been involved in family court and who trust that those charged with protecting children are actually doing so, rather than placing them in situations where they are likely to suffer even more trauma. Most people assume that the cases involving outrageous treatment of mothers and children that have been publicized in the popular media are rare occurrences but the writers show that this is far from being the case.” , Women's VU (Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center at Vanderbilt University), November 2005, pg. 4.
“When you study large numbers of cases as the authors have done, however, it becomes apparent that the fault is not with the mother but with the system. The same mistakes are made repeatedly by judges, lawyers, law guardians, mental health professionals, child protective workers and other players in the system. The authors' contribution is to help us see this pattern of abuse in the courts.” , on Amazon.com (June 19, 2005).
“This is not light reading. Sociologist Neustein and attorney Lesher have written a shocking indictment of the U.S. family court system. After studying over a thousand cases, they find a clear pattern of abuse by the system itself, directed against sexually-abused children and the parents who try to protect them.” , on Amazon.com (June 13, 2005).
“Neustein and Lesher's well-documented and eminently readable book rips the curtains off the abject degeneration into madness of today's family court system. In searing detail, the book points a much deserved finger of blame at the actors in this legal nightmare--the attorneys, law guardians (lawyers for the children), judges, custody evaluators, and other court ‘auxiliaries’.” , psychology professor, Siena College, on BarnesAndNoble.com (April 22, 2005).