Trouble Maker: Surviving Hollywood & Scientology; Leah Remini
Ballantine - 2015
Leah Remini is one tough lady: after reading her memoir, the title of this book seemed to fit her well.
Raised in Brooklyn, NY to parents who were more than a little "rough around the edges", her father and mother split up when Leah was only 7. Her father had been physically and verbally abusive and, her mother Vicki wasn't much of a mother either. Neither a cook nor a nurturer, Leah and her older sister Nicole, were ofter left alone. When the sisters complained to their mother was never home she told them they could join her at church if they wanted to see her. She was lured to Scientology by her then boyfriend. New York Org., the local chapter, was located back then in what was the seedier parts of NYC - Times Square.. The sisters needed to take several subways alone from Brooklyn to get there after school. The hook for her mother in Scientology appeared to be the promise of food, clothing and housing for mother, daughters.
The family later moves from NY to FL (Clearwater being described as "the mecca of Scientology" at that time). The sisters are indoctrinated into the organization by performing many, many hours of manually labor and heavy lifting and studying what was expected of Scientology members. Both sisters dropped out of school to spend more time with the group, even if it required severing relationships with family and friends. Church members were required to disassociate with those who were considered to be - SPs (suppressive persons). With a goal of becoming an actress, Leah eventually moves to LA to pursue her acting dreams with much success but, she remains heavily involved in the church and moving up through its ranks.
The Church of Scientology is not about God or saints, but rather about helping individuals to "live their life better". I was shocked to read that most church members (35,000 world-wide) spend at least $500,000 moving to the highest ranks in the church even someone with an annual salary of $50,000 regardless, if they have to borrow the money. She claims to have given several millions of dollars to the Church over the years. There was plenty of juicy info about her 30+ years in Scientology, until 2013 when she broke with the church after a falling out and in order to protect her own 6-year old daughter. She outlines how high members of the church have broken their own rules and when she confronted them with their transgressions, they turned each accusation around on her. She does quite a bit of Tom Cruise bashing as well in this memoir, discussing his preferential treatment, his behavior and her perception that he seemed to be running the church.
The memoir felt very honest. It's written in a way that was both eye-opening and funny as well. Her break with Scientology seemed like both a brave and freeing move on her part. I enjoyed learning about her acting career both before and after her leading lady role for 9 years on The King of Queen's. The blue-collared sitcom ended in 2007. We still enjoy the reruns several times a week to this day. If you are curious about Scientology, pick this memoir up.