- Expected Apr 13, 2021
"This is a memoir in essays about so many things—growing up in an abusive cult, coming of age as a lesbian in the military, forced out by homophobia, living on the margins as a working class woman and what it’s like to grow into the person you are meant to be. Hough’s writing will break your heart." —Roxanne Gay
Searing and extremely personal essays, shot through with the darkest elements America can manifest, while discovering light and humor in unexpected corners.
As an adult, Lauren Hough has had many identities: an airman in the U.S. Air Force, a cable guy, a bouncer at a gay club. As a child, however, she had none. Growing up as a member of the infamous cult The Children of God, Hough had her own self robbed from her. The cult took her all over the globe--to Germany, Japan, Texas, Chile—but it wasn't until she finally left for good that Lauren understood she could have a life beyond "The Family."
Along the way, she's loaded up her car and started over, trading one life for the next. She's taken pilgrimages to the sights of her youth, been kept in solitary confinement, dated a lot of women, dabbled in drugs, and eventually found herself as what she always wanted to be: a writer. Here, as she sweeps through the underbelly of America—relying on friends, family, and strangers alike—she begins to excavate a new identity even as her past continues to trail her and color her world, relationships, and perceptions of self.
At once razor-sharp, profoundly brave, and often very, very funny, the essays in Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing interrogate our notions of ecstasy, queerness, and what it means to live freely. Each piece is a reckoning: of survival, identity, and how to reclaim one's past when carving out a future.
A VINTAGE ORIGINAL
In this candid debut, Hough traces her history of survival by "bending, twisting, and flattening" herself in environments hostile to her. Eleven entries recount her attempts at adaptability, first in Children of God (now known as the Family), the predatory cult in which she was raised, and later in joining the Air Force as a gay woman in the late 1990s. "Badlands" and "Speaking in Tongues" contrast ecstatic experiences of belonging both as a bar bouncer and while dancing on barroom floors with what she imagines her parents were seeking in the Family: "It felt like safety. Maybe it felt something like family, though I don't use that term." "Cell Block" presents a haunting chorus of female voices Hough hears from her cell after she is arrested for getting into a fight. The prose is often conversational and witty, as in "Boys on the Side," in which she compares finally sleeping with women to "suddenly getting to play in the World Cup when all you've done is play pickup soccer with the local divorced dads." At the work's heart is the therapeutic act of telling, and while some sections gesture toward cultural criticism, Hough is at her best when illuminating her circumstances. This moving account of resilience and hard-earned agency brims with a fresh originality.