Work Title: Beyond the Plain and Simple: A Patchwork of Amish Lives
Work Author(s): Pauline Stevick; Freiman Stolzfus, illustrator
Kent State University Press
17 b/w illustrations, 160 pages, Hardcover $22.95
Reviewer: Melanie Seibert
Men with beards, dark suits, and wide-brimmed hats; ladies clad in long dresses adorned with aprons, crisp white head coverings in place. These images are what most mainstream Americans think of when they hear the word "Amish." But behind this quaint picture exist the real lives of men, women, and children: their day-to-day work, their surprisingly complicated social interactions, their nuanced philosophical convictions.
These real lives are what the author, adjunct instructor of English and interdisciplinary studies at Messiah College, seeks to portray. She and her husband have cultivated friendships with many Amish families, attending their church services, weddings, and funerals, sometimes even spending the night at their Amish friends' houses. In this book, Stevick has compiled a sort of anthology of her experiences with the Amish way of life: she attends a wedding, interviews an Amish intellectual, goes to church, and even vacations at an Amish resort.
Displaying a firm grasp of the theological underpinnings of the Amish churches, Stevick begins with a fascinating, if short, history lesson. In the seventeenth century, she explains, a group of Swiss Anabaptists fled Switzerland for France due to persecution for their belief that Christians should be baptized as professing adults, not as infants. Led by Jacob Amman, the "Amish" ratified the tenets that their descendants still embrace today: the shunning of wayward members, plain dress, and twice-yearly communion, among others.
The book is not an encyclopedia of Amish...