“Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives” by Tina Alexis Allen— “Transformation, Transcendence, and Redemption”

Allen, Tina Alexis. “Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives”, Dey Street, 2018.

“Transformation, Transcendence, and Redemption”

Amos Lassen

Actress and playwright Tina Alexis Allen has written an audacious memoir about her privileged suburban Catholic upbringing. Her father shaped that childhood by imposing religious devotion and dedication on his large family while hiding his true nature and a life defined by deep secrets and dangerous lies.

Tina is the youngest of thirteen children in a devout Catholic family in 1980s suburban Maryland in a house ruled by Sir John, her father, an imposing, British-born authoritarian who had been knighted by the Pope. He supported his family by running a successful travel agency that specialized in religious tours to the Holy Land and the Vatican for pious Catholics.

Tina was a smart-mouthed high school basketball prodigy who loved girls and this was her secret. When she was eighteen her father discovered the truth about her sexuality but instead of taking her to the family priest and making her listen to lectures and sermons, he shocked her by revealing that he also was gay. This became their shared secret and it bound them together, tearful sermons about sin and damnation, her father shocked her with his honest response. He, too, was gay.

The secret they shared about their sexualities brought father and daughter closer, and the two became trusted confidants and partners in a relationship that eventually spiraled out of control. Tina and Sir John spent nights dancing in gay clubs together, experimenting with drugs, and casual sex—all while keeping the rest of their family in the dark.

Sir John made Tina his heir apparent at the travel agency and as she became drawn deeper into the business, Tina soon became suspicious of her father’s frequent business trips, his many passports and pile of documents but especially the briefcases full of cash that mysteriously appeared and quickly vanished. As she dug for answers, she found some very disturbing information about the father she felt she knew.

What I found so amazing here is the way writer Allen brings together the themes of self-discovery, secrets and the power of truth together.

Tina was never a sweet and innocent Catholic girl. In fact, she was quite the opposite— a smart-mouthed high school basketball prodigy whose father, upon learning of her sexuality, confessed that he had buried his male lover, Omar. From that point, father and daughter became confidants and partners in a relationship that would become filled with secrets and lies. That relationship eventually spun out of control. Tina and Sir John spent nights dancing in gay clubs together, experimenting with drugs, and casual sex—all while keeping the rest of their family in the dark.  As Tina was drawn deeper into the family business, she became suspicious of her father and she soon discovered her father’s double-life and realized how little she knew about him. This is a story of “sin and service, concealment and disclosure, hedonism and righteousness” and it had me turning pages as quickly as possible.

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