Saloma Miller Furlong
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Another Authentic Anabaptist Voice

Shirley Showalter grew up on a Mennonite farm in Pennsylvania. Her parents recognized that her intellectual curiosity could not be squelched, so they supported her in acquiring a college education. She started her academic career at Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University).

These are down-home beginnings for someone who has accomplished so much in her lifetime — becoming a college professor, then president at Goshen College and later a foundation executive at the Fetzer Institute. Her life is a wonderful example of what is possible from humble beginnings, and it shows just how much a person’s world view can change and evolve.

Though Shirley and I both grew up Plain, it’s as if her life is the inverse of mine. My childhood was anything but ideal, while hers gave her “rosy cheeks.” When faced with the difficult choice between community life and personal freedom, I chose to leave my Amish life. Though Shirley often felt the tension between her Plain life and the glittering outside world when she was growing up, she came almost full circle to embrace “the old time religion” of her childhood. And that is the beauty of authentic   voices… they can be so different, and yet so universal.

In Shirley’s new memoir Blush, scheduled to be released in September by Harold Press, she tells her compelling story. She adds to the authentic voices emerging from the Plain cultures (Mennonite, Amish, and Hutterite), a necessary antidote to the many sensationalized and romanticized depictions of Plain Living.

Shirley is the author of a blog called “100 Memoirs.” She has engaged many people in discussions about a variety of topics relating to writing, art, and life in general. Her latest blog entry is titled American Culture and Amish Fiction: Why Now and Why So Much? Part One which includes half of my review of the book Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels by Valerie Weaver Zercher. There is already a lively discussion going. She will be posting the Part Two next week. She has invited Valerie and me to respond to comments from readers. It should be an interesting discussion.

I hope you’ll join in: 100 Memoirs

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