Mennonite Memoir: A Sampling


Furlong, Saloma Miller. Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir. Michigan State University Press, 2011. 

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. (Goodreads)

Janzen, Rhoda. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home. New York: Henry Holt, 2009.

A writer/academic returns to her Mennonite roots for healing after several life-changing experiences sending her reeling and in need of help. Warm and witty, she portrays the puzzling and exotic aspects of Mennonite life as an outsider.

Showalter, Shirley Hershey. Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering WorldAvailable, 2013.

Little Shirley Hershey, named for a movie star, grew up with her nose pressed to the window of the glittering world. Three locations shaped her a family farm, a country school, and Lititz Mennonite Church. She later became a college president and then a foundation executive, but the rosy-cheeked, barefoot farm girl never quite disappeared.

As Willa Cather said, Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen. This childhood memoir tells the story of a girl who might have left the church but found another way. (Credit: Amazon Books)

Snyder, Lee. At Powerline and Diamond Hill: Unexpected Intersections of Life and Work. Scottdale: DreamSeeker Books, 2010.

Writing out of a conservative Mennonite background, Snyder provides sketches of her childhood years in Oregon with loving parents who helped ground her in a strong faith. Her stories include her sexual abuse early in life along with her journey to become the first woman president of Bluffton College. Honest and insightful in tone.

Weaver-Zercher, Valerie. The Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels. Available

Valerie Weaver-Zercher combines research and interviews with devoted readers, publishers, and authors to produce a lively and provocative examination of the Amish romance novel. She discusses strategies that literary agents and booksellers use to drive the genre’s popularity. By asking questions about authenticity, cultural appropriation, and commodification, Thrill of the Chaste also considers Amish fiction’s effects on Amish and non-Amish audiences alike

Wiebe, Katie Funk. You Never Gave Me a Name: One Mennonite Woman’s Story. Scottdale: DreamSeeker Books, 2009.

After dealing with the illness and early death of her husband, she describes the roadblocks she faced in her journey to establish herself as a single mother and writer to be taken seriously within a culture that decades ago required women to be silent and subordinate. Still writing in her eighties.



Ann Hostetler, professor of English at Goshen College, Indiana


Shirley Hershey Showalter, born in Lancaster County, PA, former professor and retired president of Goshen College; weaves her personal story with other sources



13 thoughts on “Mennonite Memoir: A Sampling

  1. DId you read Ira Wagler’s memoir of his years growing up Amish? I found it fascinating. My husband grew up in Iowa City with Amish and Mennonites as neighbors and friends. I love to go visit as I am amazed and impressed by the Amish “Rent N Dent” business that provides damaged goods at cost to the poor. I also love the food and bakeries and always gain a pound or three!! I have met many Mennonites on my travels. I find the focus on helping others to be so impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Neither Ira Wagler’s memoir nor the Amish “Rent N Dent” business is familiar to me. Glad to know about both. The website Riffle has a category entitled “For People Who Crave Real-Life Amish and Mennonite Stories.” If I ever blog my book, I may be listed there one day. Who knows! Thanks for stopping by, Cindy.


  2. Ms. Beaman,

    My family, mother’s side, is from Lancaster, where they lived in Fulton House before they gave it to the state and it was torn down to the small house that was contained inside. I grew up on the West Coast and plan to visit at some point. I believe my family were Quakers, had parties for Benjamin Franklin and there was a Mayor of Philadelphia – John Swift in the family and they lived next door to a Shoemaker, also a multiple mayor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Mario. I’m always thrilled when readers make connections to their own heritage on my blog. Although there are some differences, Mennonites, like Quakers, are pacifists. Your family has impressive connections to important colonial figures: “. . . had parties for Benjamin Franklin.” Wow!


        1. Lancaster is the county seat of Lancaster, as you know, and when I drive into the city I see the Fulton Theatre and I suppose close by, Fulton House though I am not sure I ever visited it. My blog posts are usually about the northern part of Lancaster county, in the small town of Elizabethtown and the village of Rheems, PA. I’m happy for your questions any time, Mario.


    2. In August, I went to Penn., mostly drove from Phily to Robert Fulton’s Birthplace:
      1932 Robert Fulton Highway (Route 222) Quarryville, PA 17566. I spent the day with the President of the Southern Lancaster Historical Society and mostly at this house, where my mom’s relatives are from since taking ownership from our cousin Robert Fulton, who could no longer afford it. I saw the property, which in its heyday was many hundreds of acres. Apparently, the Society had been running the house, holding meetings there and allowing visitors from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends only – Saturday 11AM to 4PM, Sunday 1PM to 5PM. Open Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day as well. I was met by the President and Vice-President, who asked me questions and recorded the conversation with the intent, I assume, of obtaining permission for certain acquisitions from a now deceased neighbor, who gave them to them because no one in my family ever came to take possession (We didn’t know the offer was on the table). I didn’t say anything but felt taken-advantage of by their hospitality and my joy at being there, for the third time, once as a baby, when my mother and father drove me to see my Aunties, who lived in the house as the last owners before they gave it to the state, two as a very young boy, who played in the snow, and then that day, when I walked its sunny day grounds. I eventually asked the president to send me the artifacts (mostly papers and photos) that Mr. Shoemaker had wanted to give the members of our family, as I did indeed show up, but the President has said nothing after the letter requesting it. We had many conversations back and forth, shared many pictures and artifacts that had been digitally-rendered, and coincidentally shortly thereafter, the historical society did a presentation of my family’s history on the land indicating that our family (Swifts) lived there from 1766 to 1965 vs. the Fultons who lived there “but a short time” (from 1765-1766).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Apparently your family has not been treated fairly in all of the proceedings. I’m sorry. However, it sounds though as if the historical society is ensuring that your family’s history lived on. Thanks for sharing here.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was happy to find your site today after Harvey Yoder informed me of it.. Around 1964 I was one of your English students at Lancaster Mennonite. You were a wonderful instructor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I certainly do remember you, Conrad, and recall that you were a good student. Fond memories of your family too. Please feel free to poke around in my blog posts. There are several with the categories/tags of Mennonite lore and Mennonite history, which you would be very familiar with. You will find that I still value my Mennonite heritage.

      Looking at your email address, I am curious about your ministry as well. Perhaps you can tell me more. At any rate, I do appreciate your making connection with me after all these years. Thank you!


Thank You for Leaving a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s