A Book Review

Shirley Showalter, author of the blog 100 Memoirs, has posted a review of my memoir Why I Left the Amish. It is a review that touched me to the point of tears because of the way that she understood the book (and my story), right down to its core. 

I think she hits the mark between honesty of detail in describing the abuse and non-romantic appreciation for the good times just about perfectly. This is no small feat. She has Mary Karr’s maturity without her hilarity. She has Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s nostalgia for rural life without her rosy life story.

Some time ago, I read Shirley Showalter’s review of Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, which included criticism for Jansen telling the story of her sister-in-law’s remarks at a family gathering. Showalter thought Jansen had needlessly cast her sister-in-law in a bad light. I read the discussion that her comments generated, and I remember saying to David, “Okay, I understand that maybe Janzen could have avoided that part of the book, because it was anecdotal information. However, in my case shedding family members in a bad light is actually central to my story — how might I have avoided that and still told the truth or what is central in my story.”

It turns out Showalter also understood this when she wrote: But what if the criticism is not gratuitous but central to the plot? What if it “outs” a brother who apparently has gained good standing within the Amish community? What if it tells old secrets about a father after he is gone?

I am truly touched by Shirley Showalter’s review. You can read it at 100 Memoirs.

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8 thoughts on “A Book Review”

  1. Your story could not be told without “putting it all out there” unless you wanted to compromise the definition of a memoir. I find it odd that Showalter criticized that aspect of Janzen’s book since, in my humble opinion, there are far greater criticisms that could be made about Little Black Dress.

    But this is a wonderful review, and I love that she did bring in a comparison to Mildred Kalish, who wrote one of my most favorite memoirs. If you haven’t read the Kalish book yet, put it on your list.

  2. I haven’t started your book because I was in the middle of a dog book actually (which is its own memoir of sorts – ha ha) but I can figure out its ending…everyone loves the dog and then it dies. That’s my guess. So last night, I made up my own ending to the dog story and have picked yours up to start reading it. I can’t wait. I can’t keep hearing talk about it without devouring it myself.

    Not only that, I’m interested in the blog that reviewed it – that sounds interesting as well. I know Monica reviewed it also (which was wonderful), but I’m already a devoted follower of hers. :) Off to work and then to read…

  3. I just received your book and can not wait to begin reading it. I have read all of your posts, have asked questions that you have been more than thorough in answering, and now I feel as if this book will be the final piece of this puzzle. Congratulations! I hope to one day achieve what you have. My very own book.

  4. Hello, Saloma! Thanks for your book which I am looking forward to reading, and for your blog which is so nice to read for the religiously/culturally curious.

  5. Saloma, if I order the book directly from you do you get more of the profit? Just wondering. Is it ok to order it with a handwritten order sheet since I don’t have a printer?

  6. Thank you all for your comments. Sorry I’ve been remiss in responding… life gets exciting sometimes!

    Monica, I felt the same way about Janzen’s book… if I was going to read that one line one more time, I might have choked… the line about her husband leaving her. And some of her humor was in poor taste, especially towards the end. I have Mildred Kalish’s book on my reading list.

    IH, you crack me up. Yes, please do check out Shirley Showalter’s blog.

    B, I look forward to hearing from you when you’ve read the book. And good luck with your own book.

    K, thank you for the compliments. I look forward to hearing from you when you’ve read the book.

    C, the answer is yes for both questions… thank you for asking. You can just order the book with a letter, too… no need to write out the whole order form.

  7. Hi, Saloma and everyone. I just wanted to say thanks for all the referrals to my blog. AboutAmish has already established a loyal following. Congrats, Saloma. I think you are about to live the very exciting life of a successful author.

    I also agree with your assessment of the Janzen book. I chose to focus on the aspects of the story from the perspective of another Mennonite from a very different wing of the tradition. The slant meant I talked about issues the average reader might not notice or care about.

  8. Shirley, you are more than welcome for the traffic… I am so glad you got some new readers. You are right, I am living a very exciting life. Today has been one thing after another. David kept finding new reviews and articles about my book out on the internet — some we expected, others not. It seems the time has come for this story to be heard. Heaven knows I’ve dreamed of it for long enough. It’s been more than fifteen years since I wrote the first draft of my book. And if I become a successful author, it will be because I had a great deal of help along the way… one of those ways is for people to write thoughtful reviews. Thank you ever so much for yours.

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