Lauren Hough grew up in a cult, and left it--more than once. She spent five years in the U.S. Air Force, a gay woman serving during the era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. She worked as a bouncer, a "cable guy," a writer. She's been homeless, incarcerated, beaten, assaulted, threatened, loved, left, happy, bored. She documents all of this--and more--in the aptly titled Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing, a searing collection of 11 personal essays.
Despite the harsh realities that Hough has faced throughout her life--harder even than living in, or leaving, a cult--Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing is never bleak, infused throughout with Hough's wit and sense of humor. "I've learned, if not to expect the worst, not to be surprised by the worst. I'll cry in frustration when my Internet's out, but when my car bursts into flames, well, that seems about right."
That's not to say Hough's humor lets herself--or her readers--off easy. In every essay in this collection, Hough peels back layers and layers of harsh realities to expose the raw, often violent underside of a society that fails its most vulnerable members time and time again. From that underbelly, Hough emerges as a strong, independent, queer woman: proud of who she is and what she will become, ever reckoning with the systems of injustice that forged her and determined to tear them down as she moves forward. It's impossible to step into Hough's essays and not appreciate her candor and honesty, her willingness to be vulnerable and real--and to see those traits as calls to do the same. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm