Introduction: About Amish and Beyond
Ever so long ago (in 2009), I started my first blog, About Amish. At that time, I felt like a lone voice trying to challenge widespread misconceptions about the Amish. Many of them came from the popular genre of Amish fiction. But that was not the only source of misinformation. Sue Bender wrote her book, Plain and Simple, after visiting a few Amish families for several weeks at a time. Hers was a rosy rendition, going as far as explaining their shunning in romanticized terms. And last but not least, scholars of Amish culture also portrayed the Amish in glowing terms. So there was a lot about the Amish culture I wanted to clarify, and I felt alone in that process. Blogs were becoming popular at the time, so I decided to try my hand at it. Here is a link to my first blog post on December 5, 2009.
So much as changed since 2009. There are a lot more vocal former Amish writing and talking about their experiences. Scholars have rectified some of the misconceptions they were responsible for, at least insofar as the myths they’d been perpetuating around Amish rumspringa. In this post, I describe what rumspringa is, and what it is not.
In 2011, when my first book, Why I Left the Amish was published, I was one of the first to write about the abuses that I’d endured in my Amish childhood. The most prominent Amish scholar at the time wanted desperately to believe that my experiences were an anomaly. I could not claim that because I didn’t know how prevalent abuse is in Amish communities. I did know that in Ruth Irene Garrett’s book Crossing Over, she had described the severe punishments she’d received as a child. There was also a story of a horrendous sexual abuse case that had come out in Legal Affairs. Otherwise, the abuses that were taking place within Amish communities were shrouded in silence.
This is why I’m grateful for all the former Amish who have written or are writing and telling their stories. I no longer feel so alone. A professor in Germany, Sabrina Völz, studies memoirs written by former Amish authors and asserts that scholars and researchers can glean a great deal by studying those who have left, rather than rely solely on those who are still living an Amish life. I wholeheartedly agree.
This “new generation” of former Amish are doing wonderful things. Not only are they giving voice to their own experiences, they are also banding together and offering support to others in leaving their respective communities, to those who are adjusting to the wider world after leaving, and/or to those who are in the process of healing from the abuses they endured as a child. It is this kind of activism that I want to engage in as well. I will be joining a group of women in Berlin, Ohio this week where I hope to make connections and find my place in the this movement.
Lizzie Hershberger and Dena Schrock at a Voices of Hope Conference
So with this new blog I hope to write stories about those of us who have lived an Amish life and have chosen to leave. We all have different ways of adjusting to and coping with the huge changes brought on leaving behind our Amish family and community.
I would love to hear questions from you that I will answer in future posts. What aspects of living or leaving an Amish family and community would you like for me to address? If you’ve left an Amish community, would you like to share your story? I welcome all of your comments and questions.
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Thank you, as always, for your readership. It is because of you that I’ve decided to continue blogging. I look forward to continuing our dialog.
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