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Amish Cultures and Identities
Plain and simple. American popular culture has embraced a singular image of Amish culture that is immune to the complexities of the modern world: one-room school houses, horses and buggies, sound and simple morals, and unfaltering faith. But these stereotypes dangerously oversimplify a rich and diverse culture. In fact, contemporary Amish settlements represent a mosaic of practice and conviction. In the first book to describe the complexity of Amish cultural identity, Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers explore the interaction of migration history, church discipline, and ethnicity in the community life of nineteen Amish settlements in Indiana. Their extensive field research reveals the factors that influence the distinct and differing Amish identities found in each settlement and how those factors relate to the broad spectrum of Amish settlements throughout North America. Nolt and Meyers find Amish children who attend public schools, Amish household heads who work at luxury mobile home factories, and Amish women who prefer a Wal-Mart shopping cart to a quilting frame. Challenging the plain and simple view of Amish identity, this study raises the intriguing question of how such a diverse people successfully share a common identity in the absence of uniformity.
An Amish Diary and Conversation
The World in a Mennonite Eye
Part memoir, part family history, part meditation on history and the present, this work of creative nonfiction allows Jeff Gundy to ask what it should mean to “live in the world but not of it,” as the traditional Mennonite saying recommends. As Scattering Point moves through time and space, it repeatedly questions how a modern, assimilated Mennonite poet and professor might live with some kind of fidelity to his tradition and to the promises and griefs of contemporary life. Scattering Point takes its title from Scattering Point Creek, which has its source on the author’s family farm in Illinois. This book explores that place while also ranging widely from it and the Amish and Mennonites who have been associated with the area for nearly the last century. It traverses the Illinois prairie to churches and caves in Europe and incorporates family stories, soil geology, the architecture of cathedrals and churches, reflections on depression, and Mennonite martyrdoms and schisms. Scattering Point speaks of the great questions of history and religion, the quiet lives of Amish and Mennonite men and women whose histories are almost forgotten, and of our lives today. Readers of all backgrounds will see something of themselves in Jeff Gundy who writes, “I must admit it: I do love this world and, many, though not all, of the things in it,” and whose quest is always for understanding that will allow us to “go back into the world more able to undertake the difficult work of loving it as we should.”
The Tourism of Nostalgia
More than 19 million tourists flock to Amish Country each year, drawn by the opportunity to glimpse "a better time" and the quaint beauty of picturesque farmland and handcrafted quilts. What they may find, however, are elaborately themed town centers, outlet malls, or even a water park. Susan L. Trollinger explores this puzzling incongruity, showing that Amish tourism is anything but plain and simple. Selling the Amish takes readers on a virtual tour of three such tourist destinations in Ohio’s Amish Country, the world’s largest Amish settlement. Trollinger examines the visual rhetoric of these uniquely themed places—their architecture, interior decor, even their merchandise and souvenirs—and explains how these features create a setting and a story that brings tourists back year after year. This compelling story is, Trollinger argues, in part legitimized by the Amish themselves. To Americans faced with anxieties about modern life, being near the Amish way of life is comforting. The Amish seem to have escaped the rush of contemporary life, the confusion of gender relations, and the loss of ethnic heritage. While the Amish way supports the idealized experience of these tourist destinations, it also raises powerful questions. Tourists may want a life uncomplicated by technology, but would they be willing to drive around in horse-drawn buggies in order to achieve it? Trollinger's answers to important questions in her fascinating study of Amish Country tourism are sure to challenge readers’ understanding of this surprising cultural phenomenon.
Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools
Train Up a Child explores how private schools in Old Order Amish communities reflect and perpetuate church-community values and identity. Here, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner asserts that the reinforcement of those values among children is imperative to the survival of these communities in the modern world. Surveying settlements in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, Johnson-Weiner finds that, although Old Order communities have certain similarities in their codes of conduct, there is no standard Old Order school. She examines the choices each community makes—about pedagogy, curriculum, textbooks, even school design—to strengthen religious ideology, preserve the social and linguistic markers of Old Order identity, and protect their own community's beliefs and values from the influence of the dominant society. In the most comprehensive study of Old Order schools to date, Johnson-Weiner provides valuable insight into how variables such as community size and relationship with other Old Order groups affect the role of these schools in maintaining behavioral norms and in shaping the Old Order's response to modernity.
Impressions of the Plain Life
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.
Songs of Solidarity and Identity
Singing occurs in nearly every setting of Amish life. It is a sanctioned pleasure that frames all Amish rituals and one that enlivens and sanctifies both routine and special events, from household chores, road trips by buggy, and family prayer to baptisms, youth group gatherings, weddings, and “single girl” sings. But because Amish worship is performed in private homes instead of public churches, few outsiders get the chance to hear Amish people sing. Amish music also remains largely unexplored in the field of ethnomusicology. In Why the Amish Sing, D. Rose Elder introduces readers to the ways that Amish music both reinforces and advances spiritual life, delving deep into the Ausbund, the oldest hymnal in continuous use. This illuminating ethnomusicological study demonstrates how Amish groups in Wayne and Holmes Counties, Ohio—the largest concentration of Amish in the world—sing to praise God and, at the same time, remind themselves of their 450-year history of devotion. Singing instructs Amish children in community ways and unites the group through common participation. As they sing in unison to the weighty words of their ancestors, the Amish confirm their love and support for the community. Their singing delineates their common journey—a journey that demands separation from the world and yielding to God's will. By making school visits, attending worship services and youth sings, and visiting private homes, Elder has been given the rare opportunity to listen to Amish singing in its natural social and familial context. She combines one-on-one interviews with detailed observations of how song provides a window into Amish cultural beliefs, values, and norms.