Imagine awakening to a new reality of who you are, revealing a hidden past that has shaped your family’s history for centuries. Fact, not fiction, this experience has been shared by thousands of descendants of Sephardic Jews who fled Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, seeking safe haven from the ruthless Spanish Inquisition. Many had already converted to Catholicism, but learned that conversion was not enough to save their lives. They established new communities throughout the world, living as Catholics on the outside, but guarding a precious Jewish heritage in secret, an observance reduced over time to mere ritual and custom.
Meet a modern day member of New Mexico’s northern Hispanic settlements who finds a new truth about herself and her family in the unexpected tumult of her life. The disappearance of her two children leads her on an inner journey and an outer one, into the past and toward a newly imagined future where she can finally choose how she wants to live and who she wants to be. Hidden Star was inspired by the emergence of Spanish Catholics and Protestants in Mexico, Texas and the American Southwest, who believe they have Jewish roots. Today, many have thoughts of return, or have already begun the process. A work of fiction, this book was inspired by interviews with actual descendants, plus events that shaped this culture’s history, and suggests that in an era of religious freedom, we’re more alike than different – whatever our heritage, we want a better world.
Brown's (Sanctuary Ranch) slightly muddled examination of the hidden Jews of the American Southwest blends the past and the present into a curiously fascinating whole. Set primarily in Estrella, N.Mex., and grounded in strong research, Brown's tale follows the tribulations of present-day Rachel Ortega and 18th-century Rebeca Morales, who is outed as a Sephardic Jew during her wedding ceremony. Through frequent perspective shifts, the experiences of the two women separated by hundreds of years prove to be very similar, as both feel a sense of dislocation due to misinformation about their cultural heritage. Rachel's crumbling marriage, the loss of her ancestral home, and the sudden disappearance of her two sons set her on a journey of discovery that leads her to the Hispanic Jewish heritage of early settlers escaping the Inquisition. The historical factual elements never fail to intrigue, but Rachel's spiritual journey often feels like a discordant counterpoint to the richly embroidered tapestry of the original Jewish settlers that Brown depicts who were forced to hide their faith, even in the New World. Fans of historical fiction and those looking to learn more about the Sephardic diaspora will find much to enjoy here.