Saturday, January 25, 2014

Leah Vincent, Disruptor of Jewish Identity

I do not normally have time to read books, nor do I like to pay for them (I'd much rather scan them on the weekend, while drinking my Starbucks at Barnes & Noble). 

But given my own painful journey out of the stifling world of ultra-Orthodoxy, when I came across a review for Leah Vincent's Cut Me Loose I had to find out more.

The subject matter of the book is obviously dramatic and an easy sell - high conflict, high drama, religious cultism, abuse of women, the social meaning of self-abuse, sexual promiscuity, parental abandonment, poverty.

But given that you can write anything on a book jacket, I still wasn't sure. Had they exaggerated to make a buck? Would the narrator be shallow and self-absorbed? Was it worth reading, or would it be boring, like most books? This comment by Beth DeRoos addressed my initial objections and made me take the leap.

(Marketing note, because this is technically a marketing blog: 1) Title books descriptively to reach your target audience 2) Get them covered in a blog your target reads 3) Have someone review it comprehensively on Amazon.)

Having read the book in one night from cover to cover, I am writing this post to urge others, particularly Jewish women who come from an ultra-religious background, to do the same. 

For one thing, it's a great read.

Second, in the end Leah gets the true love that she always wanted, was denied, and deserves. I don't think it's a spoiler to reveal that Leah ultimately creates her own kind of life, her own identity, finding joy in selfhood, a non-subservient and equal marriage, and motherhood.

Photo of Leah Vincent and her child via Failed Messiah

Finally, Leah makes meaning out of her own extraordinary pain by joining Footsteps, an organization that helps other Jewish refugees from the contemporary cult known as ultra-Orthodoxy. (And they ARE refugees, often left penniless and on the street by their families, for others to prey on.)

Sin and Salvation, of course, is the kind of book Leah's parents would never read. 

But it's for that reason alone that the rest of us should do so. So that we can save their children from Leah's intended fate.

 * All opinions my own.