Leah Vincent: Memoir and Memory and Condensed Memories

leahvincentHow do we approach memoirs when some accuse it of not being accurate. I think all we can do it accept it as the author has packaged it, read it, and then make our own conclusions. Some readers saw the author, Leah, on Katie Couric and say her comments on the show contradict the words in her book, and are being said to promote sales. Others take issue with the promotional blurbs that say she was cut off from her family. If she was cut off, then why did her mother pay her rent and find her a job in NYC? If she was cutoff, why do her parents refer to their 11 children and not just ten?

These are tangential to the story, I think. Primarily, we have the memoir of a woman who as a teen found her ultra Orthodox life confining, and ended up making poor decisions, based on her education and desires, that led to sexual abuse, prostitution, illness, Harvard grad school, and mental illnesses.

Cut Me Loose
Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood
by Leah Vincent
January 2014
Nan Talese

In the vein of Prozac Nation and Girl, Interrupted, a memoir about a young woman’s promiscuous and self-destructive spiral after leaving her Yeshivash ultra-Orthodox Jewish family.

You can read it as memoir or semi fiction. Events have been compressed or changed to make it a better read. The fifth of 11 children, she says she was cut off from her family, but yet it also appears her other sent her funds and help, etc. etc. There are two sides to the stories, and of course, we are only reading one side, but nevertheless, it is an interesting, lurid, sex filled, triumphant memoir, but if you are planning to comdemn her family, you better read between the lines carefully.

Leah Vincent was born into the Yeshivish community in Western Pennsylvania. As the daughter of an influential rabbi, Leah and her ten siblings were raised to worship two things: God and the men who ruled their world. But the tradition-bound future Leah envisioned for herself was cut short when, at sixteen, she was caught exchanging letters with a male friend, a violation of religious law that forbids contact between members of the opposite sex. He was cute and the brother of her friend, and she had romantic and sexual desires that a 16 year old woman could not suppress

Leah’s parents were unforgiving. Afraid, in part, that her behavior would affect the marriage prospects of their other children, they put her on a plane and cut off ties. (note: the book’s description says they cut off ties, but the book itself says her mother got her a job, a room, sent her extra money. She wanted to be independent, so now she was independent. Also, her older sisters were sent to NYC too, so it is not as if this was unusual)

In New York City, Leah writes that she was unprepared to navigate the freedoms of secular life. She spent the next few years using her sexuality. One bf was a Jamaican drug dealer. Another liked too much porn, so she broke up with him. She gets a painful STD and is hospitalized. She also is hospitalized for a mental health issue. Fast-paced and mesmerizing, she gets a GRE, a college degree at Brooklyn College, and is admitted to Harvard, Cut Me Loose tells the story of one woman’s harrowing struggle to define herself as an individual. Through Leah’s recollections, we see what she found to be an oppressive adolescence and a world of religious fundamentalism, but also the broader issues that face even the most secular young women as they grapple with their sexuality, use of sexual intercourse for acceptance, and identity.

Harold Ramis: From Hebrew School Presidency to Comedy Genius

harold-ramis1Harold Ramis, the actor, writer, director – Chicago born – passed away today at the age of 69. The Washington U (St Louis) grad who helped to found Second City, mentor a generation of comedians, and give us Ghostbusters, Animal House, National Lampoon radio skits, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Stripes, Vacation, Club Paradise, episodes of The Office, Back to School, and more, was also the president of his Hebrew School as a teen. After working in a Saint Louis mental hospital for seven months after college (he said it was good training for life and working with actors and people in Hollywood), he returned to Chicago and worked as a substitute teacher and part time joke writer (Playboy Magazine’s Party Jokes column)

Did Hebrew School affect his writing? Maybe that is where he got idea to focus on the person who drops out of life after their bar mitzvah, the non mainstream rebel who leaves not becuase they can;t make it but because they sensed hypocrisy or it was something that wan not worth doing. Therefore you have the rebels in Stripes, the frat boys in NL’s Animal House, Chevy Chase in Caddyshack. Plus there was always the outsider-Jewish character in many films, especially all those that starred Rodney Dangerfield.


Conversation with Today’s Top Comedy Writers

By Mike Sacks

June 2014


If you can’t make it as a comedy writer… just write books about comics

What makes people laugh? How do you know if a joke will “click” with the audience? And how do you get a job as a comedy writer, anyway? In Poking a Dead Frog, top humor writers like Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights), Michael Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation), and Glen Charles (Cheers, Taxi)—many of whom have never before been interviewed at this length, or at all—offer insight into their influences and creative processes, their self-doubt and breakthroughs, and how they managed to succeed in the mysterious, unpredictable business of comedy. Packed with behind-the-scenes stories, from a typical day in the writers’ room at the Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live, Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for comedy buffs, writers, and pop culture junkies

Click the book cover or title to read more or to purchase the book