Non­fic­tion

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Sal­va­tion After My Ultra-Ortho­dox Girlhood

  • Review
By – January 10, 2014

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, naïve 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

The Ultra-Ortho­dox Backlash

A Jew­ish Atheist’s Prayer

Inter­view

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.

Libi is a first-time mom liv­ing in New Jer­sey. She works in fundrais­ing and events at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty and is pur­su­ing a master’s degree in Marketing.

Discussion Questions