Amish Fiction – Which Comes First?

I have been pondering a question that I would like to ask of you. According to the article “Chasing the Bonnet” by Beth Graybill, Amish fiction is one of the hottest genres on the market. The librarians I talk to are amazed at how these books fly out of their libraries; Amazon shows that the number of any one of the hundreds on the market sell really well; and the number of Amish fiction authors keeps growing. 

My question for my readers is this: Do you think that the intrigue in the Amish are at an all-time high because of all this Amish fiction, or do you think it’s the other way around — there is all this Amish fiction because the intrigue in the Amish is at an all-time high?

Mary Ann asked this question on her blog A Joyful Chaos the other day: Do you think interest in the Amish culture will peak and start waning any time soon? Why?

I found the answers very interesting. Most people said they thought it wouldn’t wane, that the Amish will always remind us of a simpler life when life in the outside world is so complicated. This really intrigued me, because it implies that nothing changes among the Amish. And this is perhaps one of the reasons why the Amish are romanticized, when the change in the mainstream society is occurring so rapidly that we sometimes feel we are spinning out of control. But the Amish do change. And circumstances change. What if things came to light that would cause the readers to see that these novels are but a fairy-tale version of Amish culture, and therefore not at all what Amish life is really like? Would the readers who love these stories continue to love them, or do they love them now because they think this is a true picture of the Amish and their lifestyle?

I look forward to hearing your answers. This could be an interesting discussion.
Sharing is caring

12 thoughts on “Amish Fiction – Which Comes First?”

  1. I think that your “what if” is missing an important fact – most people don’t change what they believe just because data comes out. There’s a known bias towards information that confirms what you already “know”. So people who read those books and believe the depictions of Amish life given in them, are just going to assume that the information about what Amish life actually is must be false. Or it applies to one community, but not others, or something else that lets them ignore it.

    I think that the books would still do well though – I’m sure that for every person who reads the books and takes it as fact that Amish teenagers have a running-around time when they make a conscious choice about whether or not to get baptised, there is another person who knows that the community portrayed is fiction, just like the story is. It’s not going to stop them from reading the books though, they’re reading them because the books are simple and wholesome, not because the Amish are simple and wholesome.

  2. I think it’s in the interest in the Amish that spurs the interest in the books. When I saw your blog title on a friend’s blog roll, I immediately clicked over. I was hooked. I have been working my through all of your past posts. However, I’ve never been tempted to pick up a book in the Amish Fiction genre. I find the information that you, having been Amish, provide here on your blog to be the really interesting parts: the way it REALLY is, not the romanticized version. But that’s just me.

  3. The reason I read Amish fiction is honestly less to learn about the Amish people – because I know fiction isn’t a good anthropological source – and more because it’s nearly always “clean” fiction that I can rely upon. I really dislike all of the overly sexualized fiction written today and most of the authors who write in the Amish fiction genre stay away from those sorts of plot lines.

    I also read a lot of agricultural books – fiction and nonfiction. Books about the Amish also often feature agricultural themes.

    There are so many reasons that people read books of any sort that it’s probably a mistake to try and assume motives behind reading choices. :)

  4. I think that the interest in the Amish has been building up for at least the last 5 years and I think that Amish fiction is a result of that interest. I am not really interested in Amish fiction and would rather read a “true life” book like yours if I am going to read about the Amish. I think that the information you provide and what I have read at A Joyful Chaos is much more interesting than fiction. I like reading your blog and MaryAnn’s not because of an obession with the Amish but because the blogs are interesting and I do like to learn about other cultures and religions.

  5. I don’t know the answer to this question. I know that I have always been interested in the Amish people probably because I was born in Lancaster, PA and spent much time with family there over the years. When Amish fiction came out, I was curious to read it.

    I do think it’s been romanticized, and I prefer when the fiction is more true to life. Then there is your book, which provides even more (and better) insight into real life.

    Happy Mother’s Day weekend,

  6. Wow, very interesting question, Saloma!

    As one who writes fiction books in Amish settings (but with non-Amish characters), I’ve struggled with how to present the Amish who play minor parts in my stories. Having grown up around them, I’ve seen the less perfect aspects of their lifestyle firsthand. But at the same time, it seems like readers of Amish fiction want to read the version that they’ve romanticized in their heads. Thus, publishers are prone to publish books with this portrayal for the sake of sales. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, just an interesting twist.

    People who want the firsthand version will flock to sites like yours. I know I find it very interesting and helpful!

  7. I dont see these Amish fiction novels losing steam anytime soon. To be honest as a man these books are not my cup of tea, but if they made another sequel to the movie Witness id be right there. Richard from Lebanon countys Amish settlement.

  8. Hi Saloma! I enjoyed listening to you speak at the Agawam Public Library in April. Your book was riveting, thought provoking and quite moving. I’m looking forward to someday reading part 2.

    I am also an avid reader of Amish fiction. I really don’t believe any of it actually represents “reality”. If I want reality, I’ll read nonfiction (which I also enjoy). Reading is a way to escape to a different place, be a different person, live a different life. I also read fantasy…but that doesn’t mean I believe that unicorns or cloaks of invisibility are real (no matter how disappointing that may be). In many ways Amish fiction IS fantasy…as (sadly) are Harlequin romances.

  9. I think Amish fiction is like Siesta Beach here in Sarasota. People flock to it because it is the “in thing” to rave about the white sand, when actually Lido Beach is nicer.

  10. A week late in commenting … where have I been? I don’t know; apparently not keeping up with my blogs! I have been working more than before so I’ll use that as my excuse.

    Which came first? I think interest in the Amish/Mennonite culture and heritage came first, thanks to good old fashioned curiosity, tourism and well made products for sale. This in turn, brought out one Amish Fiction author who had good results and then everyone jumped on the bandwagon. There’s something intriguing in the Amish as a culture for those of us who have not had to work as hard to make a living. It’s interesting to read about farm life, harness making with no real power tools; backless benches for church (in a house), canning meat (of all things!), quilting, etc.

    I think the romanticizing of the Amish in fiction came about because people (women) were tired of sex filled novels. The same people who read them, seem to enjoy Janette Oake, and Karen Kingsbury. I have a feeling they also enjoy “Little House” books and “Anne of Green Gable” books. I have read one book by Janette Oake (enjoyed it) and nothing by Kingsbury; but all “Little House” and “Green Gable” books. I don’t like my novels too simple, but I also don’t like to struggle with plots, characters, parallels, contrasts, and a lot of other literary jargon. I had enough of that in college :-)

    I am not sure what attracted me to Amish “anything’ to begin with. I visited Lancaster once as a teenager and found the PA Dutch heritage interesting and wondered if that was the “Dutch” my mom was (no) but just a few years ago, I picked up an Amish fiction novel and found it to be quite interesting (setting was in the 1930’s.) It was clean! The setting was in a time before me. (another attraction) Being a country girl, I took right to the farm setting. Being a Christian, I was interested in the religion. Loving to read, I gave it a try; Then another and another by the same author. Then, I switched to a different author and read all the books in her series but I felt like I was reading “cheap” versions of the first author’s books.

    I’ve only been very dissapointed in my first author once when she ended her story too abruptly with unfinished thoughts. What I like about her is that she doesn’t stick to one set of rules for all communities and that makes it more realistic. But I have to tell you, they are definitely fiction and ALL pale in comparison to the real thing. Thank you, Saloma!! (and Mary Ann, soon to be a published author!!!)

  11. G’Day Saloma,

    I think there are two main reasons for the popularity of Amish fiction and the amish in general.
    1. We are now past peak oil and the Amish lifestyle is a way to live well with low technology, and
    2. Christian women seeking romance novels that are not sexually explicit.

    Cheers, John

  12. I like what Peggy said:
    “I think the romanticizing of the Amish in fiction came about because people (women) were tired of sex filled novels. The same people who read them, seem to enjoy Janette Oake, and Karen Kingsbury. I have a feeling they also enjoy “Little House” books and “Anne of Green Gable” books. I have read one book by Janette Oake (enjoyed it) and nothing by Kingsbury; but all “Little House” and “Green Gable” books. I don’t like my novels too simple, but I also don’t like to struggle with plots, characters, parallels, contrasts, and a lot of other literary jargon.”
    I haven’t ready any Amish novels yet but… I used to read a lot of romance and I particularly liked historical romance. And while I still enjoy them if I were to read them, I don’t seek them out anymore. I like what I call ‘domestic’ novels – those based on home or everyday type life. Though I do prefer older settings over newer ones. I don’t think I’ve ever read Oake or Kingsbury but I love the Little House books, LM Montgomery, and Rosamunde Pilcher. I also really like Maeve Binchy. (The other thing I really like is when they’re set in Ireland, Scotland, or England. LOL) I have sometimes struggled with some books though that have a lot of characters and that do ‘flashbacks’ regardless. My mind can’t keep track of it all. Right now I’m reading Sense and Sensibility and it’s not bad but the way it’s written makes it a little more difficult for me. I tried reading The Scarlet Letter once (after managing to not having to read it in high school because I switched schools a month into the school year – where I left was just starting it and where I went to just finished it. LOL). I couldn’t read it though – the old English was too much for my brain to comprehend well.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top