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Why I Left the Amish

A Memoir

Saloma Miller Furlong

Publication Year: 2011

There are two ways to leave the Amish — one is through life and the other through death. When Saloma Miller Furlong’s father dies during her first semester at Smith College, she returns to the Amish community she had left twenty four years earlier to attend his funeral. Her journey home prompts a flood of memories. Now a mother with grown children of her own, Furlong recalls her painful childhood in a family defined by her father’s mental illness, her brother’s brutality, her mother’s frustration, and the austere traditions of the Amish — traditions Furlong struggled to accept for years before making the difficult decision to leave the community. In this personal and moving memoir, Furlong traces the genesis of her desire for freedom and education and chronicles her conflicted quest for independence. Eloquently told, Why I Left the Amish is a revealing portrait of life within — and without — this frequently misunderstood community.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

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pp. ix-x

My deepest gratitude is owed to David who helped me keep the faith that my story would eventually find its way into print, and for his unending support through the many drafts and rejection letters. Much appreciation also goes to Julie Loehr, for her enthusiasm for and dedication to publishing this book; to all the rest of the team at Michigan State University Press for their expertise and sense of humor while ...

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Datt’s Struggle with Life

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pp. 1-22

There are two ways to leave the Amish—one is through life and the other through death. To leave through life, someone has to deliberately walk away from the security and conformity of the strictly ordered community. Once abandoned, the future is self-determined, exhilarating, and terrifyingly open. Anyone who lives the life determined by the community...

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A Frolic

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pp. 23-39

Later that same day as I walked across campus, I called Sister Susan. We had been emailing back and forth constantly since Datt had gone into the hospital and subsequently gone back home. Susan said Datt was doing about the same as he had been, although they were now giving him morphine every four hours to relieve his coughing. She said that he was...

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Do You Remember Me?

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pp. 41-60

Back at Smith, my struggles to stay focused grew more intense. As I awoke in my window bed one morning, I realized that my days belonged to Smith, and my nights belonged to my memories—though there were times when my memories intruded while I was sitting in class. Most of the time I could keep the two separate, but with each passing day, as...

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Funeral Circle

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pp. 61-76

Datt’s funeral did not resemble my recurring dream; in fact, it was as if I had converted the dream. I did not feel uncomfortable in my “high” clothing, surrounded by the four hundred other people at Datt’s funeral, most of them in Amish clothes. I didn’t need to wear Amish clothing that no longer fit me—either psychologically...

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Reckoning with Joe

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pp. 77-94

Joe quickly stamped out a cigarette when Emma opened the door and invited us in. I was happy he didn’t do what he used to when we were young and I complained about the smell of his cigarette smoke. Then he would come and smoke into my face in response to my...

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In the Shadows of the Buggies [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 95-113

One Monday morning, when Joe was about eighteen years old, he didn’t get up when his ride came to take him to work, so the carpenter’s crew left without him. Joe had been out partying the night before. I dreaded the day, because I knew he would be in a foul mood. I decided to lay low and not get in his way. He was sleeping on the couch when...

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A Grain by the Wayside

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pp. 115-133

Tim shifted in his seat and asked how soon we would get to Northampton. I told him we were almost in Albany, and that we still had a few hours to go. David awoke and said he would continue to drive whenever I was ready. After another stop at a rest area, we settled into the positions most comfortable for all of us—David driving, me in the front passenger seat, and...

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What Do You Mean by Love?

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pp. 135-143

Sarah started going to singings soon after I did. She was shy, and hung back until I taught her how to dance. With her tall figure and bright blue eyes, she drew stares from the young men. The first few times she attended the singings, she rode home with me and whoever asked me for a date, or in the taxi we called if no one asked me for one. One night, Sarah...

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Wrapping a Plan

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pp. 145-156

David pulled into a gas station in Massachusetts. The trip was getting long, and I felt sorry that he and Tim still had to drive after they dropped me off . They would not arrive home until after midnight. After refueling the car, we decided to eat a quick meal. I asked David if he wanted me to drive, and he said it would be a good idea, given that he had...

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Out of the Woods

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pp. 157-168

We sometimes visited Dan’s close friend, Eddie, who had curly black hair. He was short and slight. He had several dozen arrowheads that he had found on his father’s farm over the years, which fascinated me. I asked him how he found them. Eddie said he walked along the furrows after the fields had been freshly plowed. Dan said, “Yes, but anyone else can be walking along the same...

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Into Daybreak

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pp. 169-181

When I saw how crowded the train was, I forgot the kiss and focused on finding a seat. All of the double seats had at least one person in them, except one. That one had a pack on it. I decided to take my chances. I put my luggage on the rack above and scooted into the seat next to the...

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Naming Practices among the Amish

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pp. 183-184

Because the Amish don’t have much variety in names, either first or last, some people have the same first and last names. Last names are not used very often (partly because it isn’t that useful, with half the population being Millers, and partly because it is more formal than first names), so it becomes necessary to differentiate between one Joe Miller and another. They use the father’s name first, and thus my ...

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Differences between Amishand Mennonites

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pp. 185-187

The Amish and Mennonites share common European Anabaptist roots. The Anabaptists (including the Swiss Brethren) were often persecuted for their religious beliefs, which differed from the state-sponsored Catholic, and later Lutheran and Reformed churches. The difference most espoused by the Anabaptists was ...

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Terms for “Outsiders”

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pp. 189-190

The most common term the Amish use for referring to people who are not part of their community is “English.” I can easily imagine where this term came from, at least once they moved to the United States: the outside world spoke English, whereas the Amish spoke a dialect of German ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172046
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870139949

Page Count: 213
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Amish -- Ohio -- Biography.
  • Furlong, Saloma Miller.
  • Furlong, Saloma Miller -- Childhood and youth.
  • Furlong, Saloma Miller -- Family.
  • Families -- Ohio.
  • Amish -- Ohio -- Social life and customs.
  • Parent and child -- Ohio.
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