Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler
Ira Wagler was born in 1961, the ninth of a Canadian Amish couple's eleven children. At seventeen, in the dark of night, he left the religious settlement, but it was only nine years later that he finally left the church for good. His favorite Bible verse is from Psalm 34: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." In this new memoir, he tells what it was like growing up Old World Amish and what it felt like leaving it for a strange new world. Far more than picturesque; Growing Up Amish conveys one man's heartfelt experience.
This was an interesting book. It is not my usual fare, but it caught my eye with its unusual topic.
The Amish are a group of people bathed in mystery. We don’t identify with them, not with their simple lives and their willingness to put aside all modern conveniences. To read about the struggle of one man born to Amish life was refreshing. It shows that even when raised in a society like that, the cultural boundaries can still chafe, to the point where he felt the need to abandon his old life.
There are many fascinating details to Amish life that only someone who’s lived in its folds would know. I was surprised at the author’s willingness to share and I wonder if the Amish community is comfortable with so much of their lives printed on the pages. The author’s conflicts with his heritage can strike a deep chord within all of us who’ve struggled with identity, whether in religion, culture or race. Although what seems like his chronic indecision can get a bit repetitive, we do feel for Ira, and we root for him throughout the length of the book.
For all of you interested in the Amish lifestyle, or who’d like to read an interesting memoir, this is a good choice.