Recently, I attended a memorial service for an old friend. Peg had led a long and accomplished life before her final years of excruciating pain and frustrating helplessness, so while we mourned her loss, we were there to share the joy of having known her. Peg was a firm atheist, a founding member and generous supporter of Atheists United, but most of her time was spent riding the horse trails that she loved, so it didn’t surprise me that I was the only person from the freethought community at the invitation-only event.
Her oldest son led off with a long remembrance, and then various friends and family shared anecdotes and enumerated Peg’s many contributions to the community. Peg’s involvement in freethought wasn’t mentioned. It was not that people were avoiding controversy; Peg’s colorfully negative opinion of Republicans was fondly recalled. Still, even in liberal Southern California, atheism is a whole different measure of controversy.
1960: Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) holds a high position in a renowned New York advertising agency, has an ex-model wife he calls “Betts” (January Jones), two kids, and a beautiful home. However, that is just the outside view of the protagonist’s life that is as multi-layered as the show itself. In the course of the decade-spanning seven seasons of Mad Men (2007 – 2015), the viewer gains revealing insights behind the so very appropriate facades of Don Draper and his fellow (m)ad men – and one (m)ad woman. Despite Don Draper being the show’s center, there are several plot lines being followed, for instance that of secretary Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), who against all odds and conventions of the time aspires to a career that goes beyond wearing a tight dress, getting coffee, and operating a typewriter “simple enough for a woman to use.”Read more »
As an American writer living in Germany, I care deeply for both countries. It is a strange time to do so, as powers-that-be in Germany and would-be powers in the States do all they can to reverse traditional roles these two powerhouses have maintained in my half-century lifetime and beyond. There’s a sense of vertigo trying to recall which is the so-called old world and which is the new. Read more »
In the second half of the interview, we turn our attention to Saloma Miller Furlong’s Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two World (2014), the succeeding installment to her ex-Amish memoir Why I Left the Amish (2011). Both books depict and reflect on the struggles to put the past behind and embrace an unknown future. In Bonnet Strings, however, before being able to seize the chance to find true happiness and love in the world beyond the Amish, Furlong feels compelled to return to her former community after coming face-to-face with a vanload of relatives and Amish community members in Vermont. Once in her old surroundings, she tries yet again to “wear Amish” and reconcile her rebellious nature with the Amish mindset.
In contrast to the autobiography and its ‘one shot’ at a self-referential non-fictional narrative, serial memoir affords the writer the opportunity to revisit some of the same memories or reflections discussed in an early work from a later perspective or experience. Bonnet Strings opens with just such commentary.
Saloma Miller Furlong is author of the ex-Amish serial memoirs, Why I Left the Amish (2011) and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds (2014). She has also been featured on PBS American Experience documentaries, The Amish and The Amish: Shunned. Furlong’s debut memoir opens with a meditation on death in Amish society as she struggles to come to terms with her own father’s passing. Returning for the funeral stirs up memories of her childhood, troubled teenage years, and abuse. The complex interplay between age, class, gender, tradition, and her father’s mental illness serve as obstacles to her recovery. After years of being pushed to the margins of Amish society, the young woman hits rock bottom. Ultimately, however, she takes charge of her life and makes the impossible decision to put the Amish world behind her. Why I Left the Amish is an uncomfortable story, but – at the same time – one of empowerment. In this first segment of her interview, Furlong discusses the writing process as well as the healing power of both nature and human dialogue. Read more »
Dust. The first thing he noticed was the hot, dry air and the dust creeping through the tiny slit between his mask and pali scarf. He felt dizzy, and he didn’t know where he was, almost like waking up after a long, deep dream. He stood still trying to calm his breath, but the heat remained unrelenting. It was dark where he was. He found himself under a shelter, a bridge of sorts with bright sunlight on both sides. He felt sweat running from his forehead along his mask down his nose and tasted the salty liquid on his lips. It dripped from his neck all the way down to his boots. A waterfall of sweat. He wanted to move, get out of this heat, out of his clothes, but something made him freeze. He looked down and noticed black boots, pants, a jacket, a protection vest, and gloves as he vanished into the shadows. Only then did he realize that he was not alone. Read more »