Published by Random House Publishing Group on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Entertainment & Performing Arts, Religion, Scientology, General
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A candid, insider look at growing up in the Church of Scientology and the unique experience of being a celebrity member. Engaging and hard-to-put-down memoir.
Belief and faith are great, but very few people have been led astray by thinking for themselves.
Leah Remini was first introduced to the Church of Scientology at age 7 when her mother brought home a boyfriend who was a member of the church. Due to his influence, her mother began to spend long periods of time at the New York Org, a Scientology center. Leah and her sister eventually joined their mother and began participating in classes. At the New York Org, she experienced the intoxicating feeling of being treated like an adult; children in Scientology are treated as independent “spiritual beings” who can make their own decisions, rather than children who need parenting and guidance. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology reveals the path that led Leah to the Church of Scientology and the seeds of doubt that drove her to a very public split from the church.
There is no “right” way to be. I am flawed and imperfect, but am uniquely me. I don’t fit in and probably never will. And I don’t have to try to anymore. That other person was a lie. And let’s face it, normal is boring. We all have something to offer the world in some way, but by not being our authentic selves, we are robbing the world of something different, something special.
I am a big fan of celebrity gossip…to the point that I pretend I don’t know as much as I do, so as not to embarrass myself! I’ve been betraying myself lately, by talking about this book! I’ve seen Leah’s work on Saved by the Bell and King of Queens, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. I really loved her after reading this book! As with many celebrity memoirs, there is a cowriter listed, but Leah’s personality shines through. I wish that I would have waited for my library to get the audiobook, which Leah narrates! Her personality is abrasive and she is extremely blunt (“Honestly, it’s probably better for them to keep getting jerked off in the church, because they will never experience that kind of validation in the real world.”), but she is also funny and fiercely loyal. It’s actually a little amazing that she lasted in the church as long as she did with her strong personality! She would be a great person to have in your corner, but I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. She is aware of her flaws and fully admits to her mistakes. She actually begins the book with a list of flaws and wrongdoings, in order to head off the inevitable smear campaign.
There were so many starts and stops in my career, ups and downs, moments of triumph and then heartbreak. It always felt like “This is it” and then it wasn’t. Although that’s the nature of the business in Hollywood, when it is happening to you it seems like the end of the world. My failures in my professional life ended up driving me toward the church, which taught me that because I wasn’t successful on a regular basis, I was doing something wrong in life. Being a Scientologist means you are responsible for all the bad things that happen to you (and anything good that was happening was due to the church), so it was only natural to assume that the cancellation of Fired Up was somehow caused by my transgressions or some technology that I was misapplying in my life.
Before this book, I had never really thought about Scientology in a serious way, because of the Hollywoodness of it all. Leah was obviously dedicated to this religion and fully believed in its tenets. She tried to express her issues to the church leadership, in order to institute positive change. Instead of taking her concerns into consideration, she was manipulated and punished.
She made it easy to understand how someone would get sucked into the church and I could see how many of the self-help courses could be useful to some people. It was interesting that Leah seemed to instinctively know that there was something off with the church; she focused on helping existing members, rather than the church’s preference of recruiting new members. It was also easy to see overlap with extremist wings of more widely adhered to religions. It is terrifying how quickly what appears to be innocent self-improvement became abusive. The abuse kicks into high gear after the participant has already paid a high financial and emotional cost. Her experiences growing up in the church are already disturbing, but the book takes a real weird turn when Tom Cruise enters the picture! The events surrounding his wedding are seriously bizarre! The gist of most of the Tom Cruise bits have been dished out by the media, but the book offers context and more elaboration.
Instead of bashing Scientology, she asked me what worked about it. Her point was that in life there are “knowledges.” You can take a little bit from this and a little bit from that. Use what works for you and leave the rest. “Leah, it doesn’t need to be all right or all wrong. Take what worked. Don’t try to throw away everything from Scientology.”
She discusses her various experiences in the entertainment industry, mostly in a positive light. I admit that I was hoping for a little more set gossip (especially for Saved by the Bell, embarassingly enough!), but the central focus on Scientology is what makes this book stand above the multitude celebrity memoirs. I am sure she is holding back a ton of information (and she admits to that somewhat in The Talk chapter), but she also reveals much more than I ever expected. What she does choose to reveal about the church is shocking, especially considering the power the church holds over its members. The break from Scientology is not portrayed as easy. She still struggles with doubts and fears, since so much of her identity was tied into the church. I could still read a bit of the cultishness shine through when she refers to L. Ron Hubbard.
In the end, change is never easy. Living with a core set of beliefs that completely unravel is unsettling, to say the least. We all have to decide, do we want to live in regret, suffer pain, and demonize ourselves for believing in and carrying out the tenets of the church, or do we want to look at what we gained? The “bad” had to happen. If it didn’t, we would still be walking around with blinders on, not seeing the world at large. We wouldn’t have been given the gift to explore new ideas, new ways of being, thinking, open to the possibilities that there are other beliefs, different paths that can bring us closer to others. We would not be able to be more solid than ever in our belief that “what is true for you is true because you yourself have observed it to be true.” We all have a newfound strength, in that we will never again “believe” just because.
This is a shocking account by one individual, but the revelations are similar in nature to interviews given by others who have split with the church. She exposes the hypocrisy of the church and how it manipulates and controls its members through psychological and physical abuse, but is also a good look at how easy it can be to become involved with a cult and the difficulties of breaking away. This book would probably be most interesting for those looking for an introduction of the topic of Scientology from someone who was deeply involved.