Searing and extremely personal essays from the heart of working-class America, shot through with the darkest elements the country can manifest--cults, homelessness, and hunger--while discovering light and humor in unexpected corners. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.
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.
About the Author
LAUREN HOUGH was born in Germany and raised in seven countries and West Texas. She's been an airman in the U.S. Air Force, a green-aproned barista, a bartender, a livery driver, and, for a time, a cable guy. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Guardian, and HuffPost. She lives in Austin.
"Lauren Hough’s extraordinary essay collection Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing is as powerful as it is poignant. So many moments in this exceptionally crafted essays brought me to tears and before long I would find myself laughing as Hough wielded her razor sharp wit. 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. The ways she lays herself bare will leave you marveling at the strength it takes to reveal such delicate vulnerabilities. And when you come to the breathtaking end, you will know what it means to be entrusted with the beautifully messy truth of a person’s life. What an overwhelming, unforgettable offering Hough has made. This is one of those rare books that will instantly become part of the literary canon and the world of letters will be better for it." —Roxane Gay, author of Difficult Women
“Lauren Hough's Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing is so brilliant, so humane and pissed off and hysterically funny and thought-provoking, and so beautifully written it's hard to describe except to say that it's a book that is going to mean a lot to a lot of people, and it might cause some fights, and you better read it so you can have the pleasure of reading it and the pleasure of talking about it with everyone. She is the kind of extraordinary writer who could make anything interesting; that these essays are about her own astonishing life, written with a clear eye and a sense of humor so quick and black it hurts, and a kind of ruthlessness for herself and others, means it's like no other book anywhere. I loved every sentence. ” —Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway
“Lauren Hough is the best new voice I’ve read in years: fiercely honest, funny, brazen, and unrepentant. Best of all, the propulsive storytelling of Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing is anchored by an unexpected tenderness and vulnerability that will get you by the throat every damn time. Like a petulant cross between David Sedaris and Mary Karr, Hough is the genuine article. Leaving might not be the hardest thing, but leaving this vibrant, heart-wrenching memoir behind is damn near impossible.” —Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly columnist and author of What If This Were Enough?
“Powerful . . . Hough’s direct, no bullshit manner will have you laughing and nodding your head in agreement. If you are a fan of memoir and books about moving through life overcoming any obstacle in your way or, if, like me, you love reading about strong queer people — then this book is for you!” —Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, Boston Magazine “Folks have been gushing about Lauren Hough’s memoir-in-essays for what feels like years now thanks to the time-warp of 2020, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.” —Eliza Smith, "Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021"
“[Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing] is a killer debut, as riveting for its content as it is for its captivating style.” —BookPage, "2021 preview: Most anticipated nonfiction"
“These essays mine [Hough's] eclectic, fascinating life and her efforts to create her own identity. Plus, she's a fabulous writer." —Deborah Dundas, The Toronto Star
“An edgy and unapologetic memoir in essays.” —Kirkus
“This moving account of resilience and hard-earned agency brims with a fresh originality.” —Publishers Weekly