Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life (Hardcover)
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"The fascinating and moving story of a woman finding her true place in the world, away from the strict requirements of her family and her religion. Amber Scorah navigates her escape with courage, clarity, and humor. She is a strikingly beautiful writer with the unique perspective and fresh sight that can only belong to an outsider."--Lisa Brennan-Jobs, author of Small Fry
A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world's most restrictive countries.
A third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Amber Scorah had devoted her life to sounding God's warning of impending Armageddon. She volunteered to take the message to China, where the preaching she did was illegal and could result in her expulsion or worse. Here, she had some distance from her community for the first time. Immersion in a foreign language and culture--and a whole new way of thinking--turned her world upside down, and eventually led her to lose all that she had been sure was true.
As a proselytizer in Shanghai, using fake names and secret codes to evade the authorities' notice, Scorah discreetly looked for targets in public parks and stores. To support herself, she found work at a Chinese language learning podcast, hiding her real purpose from her coworkers. Now with a creative outlet, getting to know worldly people for the first time, she began to understand that there were other ways of seeing the world and living a fulfilling life. When one of these relationships became an "escape hatch," Scorah's loss of faith culminated in her own personal apocalypse, the only kind of ending possible for a Jehovah's Witness.
Shunned by family and friends as an apostate, Scorah was alone in Shanghai and thrown into a world she had only known from the periphery--with no education or support system. A coming of age story of a woman already in her thirties, this unforgettable memoir examines what it's like to start one's life over again with an entirely new identity. It follows Scorah to New York City, where a personal tragedy forces her to look for new ways to find meaning in the absence of religion. With compelling, spare prose, Leaving the Witness traces the bittersweet process of starting over, when everything one's life was built around is gone.
About the Author
Amber Scorah is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She works as an editor at Scholastic and her articles have been published in The New York Times, and The Believer. Prior to coming to New York, Scorah lived in Shanghai, where she was creator and host of the wildly popular podcast Dear Amber - The Insider's Guide to Everything China. This is her first book.
“Leaving the Witness is the fascinating and moving story of a woman finding her true place in the world, away from the strict requirements of her family and her religion. Amber Scorah navigates her escape with courage, clarity, and humor. She is a strikingly beautiful writer with the unique perspective and fresh sight that can only belong to an outsider.”—Lisa Brennan-Jobs, author of Small Fry
“Amber Scorah’s perfectly paced and sharply-written memoir opened my eyes to inner and outer worlds I’d placed in my periphery. Scorah’s gift is this wide-openness. She shares her guts, her intelligent doubt, her pain, and forgives and allows it in her reader. Her questions are answers. This is a book for the fearful and the brave.”—Leanne Shapton, author of Swimming Studies
“Scorah's memoir is about a woman’s voice. How she can use that voice to spread a doctrine. How she can reject that doctrine and speak her own beliefs. How she can use that voice to create art, and through that art, process the vicissitudes of her life. This book is perceptive, empathic, fraught, honest and heartbreaking. It is like nothing else you’ve ever read."—Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock