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Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 21, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


"Wrenching ... Her book should be read, not just as a warning of the very real dangers of the world, but also of the price to be paid when, in the name of religion, people forget humanity." The Wall Street Journal

"A sometimes-sweet, sometimes-harrowing memoir by a smart, passionate ultra-Orthodox girl. . . . engrossing and so thoughtfully written, and never mocks the traditions and values of a culture that few of us can fully comprehend." —

"Painfully raw." —Susannah Cahalan, New York Post

"Gripping. . . . Readers will appreciate Vincent's uncensored honesty in sharing the horrors of her past." —The Washington Post

"As thoughtful and heroic as it is gripping and tragic ... riveting and relatable ... [Vincent] familiarizes, rather than exoticizes, the life she's led ... The finest example of this sort of memoir yet." —Flavorwire

"Visceral and uplifting." —The Daily Beast

"Compulsively readable." —Bookpage

"Never before has rebellion been so sweetly rendered. And never—not since the memoirs of Mary Karr—has the connection between self-destruction and family dysfunction been so tangible and clear. To know Vincent is to love her, to ache with her, to kick up your feet and let down your hair with her. This is the kind of extraordinary book you’ll finish in a day, and think about for months and years after." Koren Zailckas, bestselling author of Smashed and Mother, Mother

"Cut Me Loose brims with a girl’s longing, and shines with a woman’s insight. This book so courageously describes the forbidden: the great bind of being caught between desire and tradition. Vincent’s voice is as lyrical as it brave, as hopeful as it is honest. Leah Vincent magically depicts the labyrinth of what it means to be vulnerable, sexual and female." —Christa Parravani, author of Her

"Gutsy, smart, and incredibly difficult to put down, Cut Me Loose chronicles Leah Vincent's perilous and poignant search for identity. As she grapples with profound loneliness and her dreams for the future, she ultimately arrives at a place filled with hope." —Wendy Lawless, author of Chanel Bonfire

"Leah Vincent's memoir is a fascinating view into Yeshivish life that feels as familiar to the reader as her own life because, Orthodox or not, we all grew up wrestling against our forbidden desires, mundane and normal as they were. Vincent's story is full of despair, of longing, of trying to find a place for herself amid a world that doesn't allow girls to be their whole yearning selves. The reader cheers for her when she finally escapes the prisons built by the various institutions she grew up with." —Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

"Leah Vincent's family abandoned her in the name of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. In her poignant memoir, she explores the imposed ignorance of her fundamentalist upbringing, the open wounds of her abandonment, her desperate, at times self-destructive, yearning for connection, and the self-discoveries that gave her the courage to shape her life and find her voice. The voice Vincent has claimed is unflinchingly honest and incisive. It has already begun to resound on behalf of others who struggle to escape abuse and oppression." Anouk Markovits, author of I Am Forbidden

"Vincent’s writing brims with tension, insight, and longing. This quickly paced book is not about sex, though sex is a part of the narrative. It’s ultimately a meditation on love and its myriad cruelties, as well as its eventual beauty and transcendence." —Margaux Fragoso, author of Tiger, Tiger

"Leah Vincent shares a harrowing journey that will speak to all children fleeing intolerance, who struggle to be seen and accepted on their own terms." —Julie Metz, bestselling author of Perfection

About the Author

Leah Vincent is a writer and activist. The first person in her family to go to college, she went on to earn a master's in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. In addition to writing for various publications, including The Huffington Post and The Jewish Daily Forward, she is an advocate for reform within ultra-Orthodoxy and for the empowerment of former ultra-Orthodox Jews seeking a self-determined life. She works with Footsteps, the only organization in the United States supporting formerly ultra-Orthodox individuals.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (January 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038553809X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385538091
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leah Vincent's memoir, Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday) describes her journey to rebuild her identity after she was expelled from her Yeshivish family as a teenager. A first generation college student, Leah was awarded a Pforzheimer Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she earned a Master's Degree in Public Policy. In 2014, Leah was named to both the Jewish Week's "36 Under 36″ and the Jewish Daily Forward's "Forward 50." Leah's essays have appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Unpious, ZEEK, the Daily Beast and The Jewish Daily Forward.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

202 of 219 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After reading the negative reviews, I had to read this book and judge for myself. I am in general reluctant to share details of my own life online, but the misrepresentations of Ms Vincent as a liar and even that she is mentally unstable (from one reviewer who claims to know her family) are without foundation. I feel I must stand up for the truth as I see it. And Ms Vincent speaks the truth.

I read the entire book in a single sitting - it is extremely well-written and it is fascinating, helping the reader understand the thinking of someone who has lost their family and identity undertaking self-destructive behaviours. It became very painful to read - especially how she was taken advantage of by men and had no idea how to interact with them - because it is a deeply authentic account.

How do I know? Because I had the same Yeshivish upbringing as Leah's. Everything from the small details and philosophy of her upbringing is true. There is no embellishment.

With the important qualifier that in every community there is variation and that not all families are like Leah's, the fact is that many are. So while Leah's upbringing does not tar the entire ultra Orthodox community, it is also a valid account of her own experience for her own family and life, and her experience is representative of many ultra Orthodox people's experiences.

Many ultra-Orthodox Jewish parents would have reacted with shunning at a female teenager's natural baby steps toward developing their own identity, like asserting things like wanting to go to college, and wearing a tight sweater. The slightest deviation from draconian modesty rules can make a girl the equivalent of a prostitute in this black and white world where there is only one path to God.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On the surface, this book is a memoir of a girl being raised in what some would refer to as an "ultra-orthodox" or Yeshivish community. While proclaiming she wants to keep her family anonymous, for those in the Jewish community, she certainly gives enough details in the book to deduce the identity of her family (or anybody good enough with Google who isn't Jewish). The surprising part of the story for many is that she is not writing of an insular community like Boro Park or New Square, but rather growing up in what the outside world might call a more modern seeming yeshivish family. According to the book, when she is caught writing letters to a boy, her parents take her out of high school to enroll her in a seminary for older women who are learning about their religion. She gets no high school education, and is then left on her own in New York with a child's understanding of the world. Leah writes with a raw and vivid style that is certainly compelling and will keep you drawn into the narrative. I read from start to finish and could not put it down. That being said, it was not the greatest work of its genre as I will explain.

First, I was confused in comparing the book as written to her TV interviews. Some of the incidents from her Jamaican drug-dealer boyfriend to her encounter on CraigsList are described quite differently in the book than she describes them on TV. In her interviews she says she was abandoned by her parents, but the book describes them setting her up with a job in New York. Some of this might just be sensationalism for TV, so I won't fault it only in that I was confused while reading the book which incidents matched with the ones I heard her describe before.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By carol on July 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hard lessons she endured without support . Lost her family and such low belt esteem of one self.
I enjoyed reading how she turned her life around and used all of her life lessons to help others !

Bravo and delighted to learn she found love and success !
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By AE on January 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this memoir provides a good blow by blow of the authors journey and transformation, I would have appreciated more context on her background and upbringing. She gives us intimate details of numerous sexual encounters, but very little color on her parents and childhood upbringing. Was she mistreated as a child? What explains her fathers behavior towards her? Based on the one major confrontation described in the book, he seems to have remained very calm and at least in his mind provided a relatively rational explanation for his behavior towards her. On the one hand it sounds like she was estranged from her family, yet they set her up with an apartment and a job in NYC, and provided her with financial assistance (albeit limited) when she reached out for help. With 11 children and a job as a rabbi, I would assume her parents had very limited financial resources. Another example of too little detail relates to her current marriage - we meet her husband on page 225, they get married on page 226, they have a child on page 227, and the book ends on page 228. Was her family invited to her wedding? Did her mother at least call to congratulate her on the birth of her child? What are the authors current aspirations, and how would she feel if her child would grow up to reject her chosen way of life? An in depth exploration of all these facets of the authors life would have made this book a lot more interesting to me.

Bottom line, it's an interesting life story but I feel the book lacked perspective and ultimately left me unfulfilled.
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