Russian mobsters. Dick Cheney. A trip to the Pentagon in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2001. In this moving memoir, Lauren Hough shares the story of her often incredible life, from a global childhood growing up in the notorious Children of God cult, to serving in the U.S. military as a lesbian stationed in a conservative state, to a stint of homelessness spent sleeping in her car, to finally, her emergence as a writer.
And that’s not even the half of it.
Hough draws a frank and funny account of her extraordinary life in this collection of essays, which revolve around her journey and her struggles to thrive instead of merely survive. Through it all – and there is a lot – you often want to reach through the pages and give Hough a hug, even as you’re laughing along with her deft and dryly humorous storytelling.
At turns shocking and sad, Hough writes about how life as and in these separate identities toughened her. She shines a spotlight on the lack of social safety nets in America when describing her work as a bouncer in gay clubs and a stint as a cable repair technician. A lack of health insurance, sick days, even time and space for bathroom breaks, can all set someone behind and push them down and out of the precarious world of at-will employment.
It was her work in cable repair that later launched her literary career when “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst of America,” an essay about her experiences in The Huffington Post, went viral.
But for military audiences, it is Hough’s time as an airman during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that can be among the most painful revelations. The Clinton-era policy, instituted from 1994 until 2011, barred openly LGBTQ+ personnel from serving in the U.S. military and effectively closeted those members. The military is still grappling with the effects of this discriminatory policy today. For Hough, vandalism escalated into death threats escalated into someone torching her car while she babysat a 12-year-old for a fellow servicemember – and then getting blamed for the arson.
Hough’s unconventional upbringing also left her with the ability to see parallels from cult life to modern America – in our social media echo chambers, our sometimes fanatical support of political leaders, and in the inescapable truth that when apocalypses (and pandemics) do come, the systems we’ve built to protect us often come crashing down.
Out April 13, “Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing” is available for purchase here.Read comments