A couple months after Lauren Hough’s essay “I Was a Cable Guy. I Saw the Worst of America” went viral at the tail-end of 2018, I assigned it to my creative writing students in a unit on “character.” Hough’s essay had a distinct narrative voice — and she was capable of giving so much information about the people she encountered through a few quick details, like one of those cartoonists who can sketch out four lines and suddenly you see your face in them. Hough’s first book, Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing , includes “Cable Guy” and 10 more essays, each of them more revealing and honest than the next. Hough was raised in a cult known alternately as the Family, the Family of Love, the Children of God, or, if you go back far enough, Teens for Christ. I was startled to learn that the whole “Jesus was a socialist hippie” line is not necessarily the progressive talking point I’d believed it was (look, I’m Jewish, I first learned about this kind of Jesus from the Buddy Christ in Dogma ).