Publisher: Tyndale House, 2011
My Rating: B+
It’s my opinion that most of us who read books featuring the Amish are fascinated by the simple and wholesome life-style. While living in Indiana I passed their farms and buggies and shopped with them at quilt and fabric stores. I have no desire to turn them into caricatures, but I am curious about them.
I have thought about what it must be like for a child born into the Amish environment. That’s why I eagerly read this new piece of nonfiction, Growing Up Amish. I figured the Old Order Amish life must be filled with lots of negative rules. It is. Here are some:
- Local transportation is by horse and buggy only. No cars allowed.
- No electricity is allowed in the house or outbuildings.
- Women must wear long, loose, hand-made dresses and keep their hair covered.
- Men may not wear belts and married men must wear flowing beards, but no mustaches.
- No phones in the house. Some groups allow a small phone “house” out on the road for emergencies.
I was feeling sympathy for the children. No Sesame Street or other educational TV, no bikes or video games or computers, i.e., things our children take for granted. But the author said his childhood was anything but boring. Actually, he talked of the ideal environment of being able to roam freely over the fields, in the woods, by the pond, and so forth.
It was not until young Ira Wagler was in fourth grade that he began to have problems. His tale of nasty bullying by the older boys brought lots of concern. Then in his early teens the preachers (and his dad) began to make new rules that made life even less enjoyable. For example, a favorite pass-time was playing volleyball. The games between boys and girls was forbidden. (They thought it would cause lustful thoughts.)
By the time the author was 17, he was ready to leave. But the problem was, if he left the Amish life and it’s religious environment, he must also leave behind his family. He wanted his freedom, but not at the expense of the people he loved.
This was an in-depth and emotional look at the Amish life-style. I felt my heart wrench many times for the author and his family and friends. He was very open and honest about his family and his situation. At times I wanted more from a female’s perspective, but of course, this was Ira Wagler’s story to tell.
It will change the way I think about the Amish and my thoughts while reading future Amish novels. The most positive thing I can say about my reaction to Growing Up Amish is that the Amish became human for me. Yes, from the outside their simple life looks idyllic, but they are not perfect. If you are a memoir fan, I suggest adding this one to your list.
Check your local library or your local bookstore for copies of this book. Growing Up Amishis also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)