Let me preface this by saying, I always felt a little dismayed that Leah Remini was a Scientologist. She seemed pretty cool-- even though I never watched King of Queens, there was always something about her I felt drawn to but then when I would think, "Oh yes, she's a Scientologist!" I felt a little creeped out.
I know it might not be very cool to say that about Scientology, but there's something about practicing Scientologists that creeps me out. So, when I saw her on 20/20 talking about leaving the "church" I was curious, I knew I would read the book.
What I didn't expect was to come away from the book with a new respect for Remini. She's tough, smart, funny. She's able to see where she's been wrong, but not afraid to speak her mind about the injustices she sees committed by the church like the excessive amount of money that people are expected to spend in order to "go clear" or the fact that people in the church who have gay children are expected to "disconnect" from them.
It's a compelling memoir as well, but I think for me, the best parts of the book are where she explains how hard it is to leave a place you've called home for thirty years, how hard it can be to stand up for what you believe is right and just, and how it can cost you to the comfort of what you have found strength in. I can't imagine having being part of a religion and being a faithful and devout follower of it only to realize I was wrong about it. The inner conflict of feeling both that "my church has lost its way" and "bad things will happen to me now that I have broken from this church" must be immense. And I also realize that many view Scientology as a cult (I'm one of them), but that doesn't mean it's any less painful for someone who was emotionally invested in it to leave.
Troublemaker is an excellent book-- not because it dishes dirt on Hollywood or Tom Cruise-- but because it illustrates the profound journey of a little girl who grew up in Bensonhurst with big dreams and her struggle with becoming a person of moral integrity, a person who speaks even when her voice shakes about the injustices she sees around her. Her book is well written but also has a sense of toughness and tenderness and honesty that are rare in celebrity memoirs.
Come to the book to read about Tom Cruise, or Hollywood gossip, but know that by the end, you'll get so much more than that. You'll learn why people turn to Scientology, what being in the Church entails (it's an immense investment of both money and time), and you might just walk away from the book feeling a bit better about the times you've been the voice of reason in a crazy world.
Also, I think it's a valuable tool in making people who are in the Church much more human. I just always thought these folks must be brainwashed to stay in an organization that was strange, so overarching, so dominating of the lives of its members, but Remini has a done a great job of humanizing the people in the church, of showing how they come to find guidance and purpose and how they can stay even when they have moments of doubt. I am no longer creeped out, but rather sad that Remini lost a faith that she found solace in. My hope is that she, and others like her, know that their experiences make them stronger and that by speaking out, they serve as warning to anyone who finds themselves part of a corrupt institution that the hard path of speaking up is the morally just and ethically valid course of action.
Leah Remini is a troublemaker in the same way Martin Luther, John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, and Leo Ryan were. So many troublemakers in history go through hardship. And yes, she's a celebrity, yes, she's much different than a Puritan woman cast out of her society, but the fact remains that she's someone unable to keep her mouth shut when she sees injustice and immorality taking place. She's honest about her flaws and wants her church to be as introspective as she is. They do not share that same stance. And she, much like every troublemaker who has come before her, will have to pay a heavy told. I thank her for illustrating that struggle and reminding us that following our moral compass isn't always easy but it is always best.
I think the world needs more troublemakers like Leah Remini, myself!