Leah Vincent’s memoir, Cut Me Loose, details her descent from an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle to a self-destructive, promiscuous, and misunderstood state of being. Vincent is completely open about the events that transpire after she was caught talking to a boy. When her letters to the boy are discovered, she is cut off from her community and from the support of her family – emotional and financial — and must fend for herself.
Young Leah believes that the strict “Yeshivish” life keeps her afloat, and that her parents would embrace her once again if she was “good.” Bad kids ended up as drug addicts or dead. “I had been thinking about my own happiness — specifically, my doubts that only a Yeshivish outlook could lead to a joyful life, as I had been taught.” This book can be read as a cautionary tale to those who consider leaving the comforts of their religious communities for the freedom of the outside world.
Vincent moves to New York, lives alone in a basement and barely scrapes by. Her community members won’t take her in because she is unmarried; she has no friends, and her parents are not willing to help her. Desperate for human companionship, she finds it on the streets of New York, with strangers, and thus begins her fall.
Vincent’s first sexual encounters are cringe-worthy. Still modestly dressed, naive beyond belief, she will do anything for attention and human touch. She ends up in the arms of men who do not have her best interests in mind. The reader practically begs Vincent to stand up for herself against these evil characters, to get smart about her choices, the details of which are almost unbelievable.
Vincent’s self-loathing fills each page and the results are gut-wrenching. A sexual experience at a crowded club leaves her suicidal. Her attempt at prostitution leaves her used and abused. While trying to finish college and working to pay the rent, Vincent falls deeper into depression. It takes considerable self-realization to finally be able to make something of herself.
It might seem surprising that a family could banish a young girl for one mistake and that it could lead to such a drastic downfall, but Vincent feels that what happened only changed her for the better. She writes, “There was one life plan for Yeshivish children: learning for boys, and motherhood for girls. The dream-retarded brain was wretched at contorting itself to imagine other aspirations.” She feels that her parents’ abandonment opened up so many opportunities for the future. It’s a tough tale to read but inspiring in its highs and ultra-lows.
Read Leah Vincent’s Posts for the Visiting Scribe
In partnership with JewSchool, JBC sat down with Leah Vincent to discuss her recently published memoir, Cut Me Loose: Sin & Salvation After My Ultra Orthodox Girlhood (Nan A. Talese). JBC and Leah discuss writing, the Haredi world, and her relationship with her parents here.