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 »
A million years ago when I was a child, I was always fascinated by what could be. I think this was primarily because I was surrounded by what was. As a Native person, I was constantly made aware of our heritage, our culture, everything from the past that made us unique and special. Also I was conscious of the fact that – technologically speaking – we were at a bit of a disadvantage to those who showed up one day for dinner and never left. I remember the first time I saw television, played with a computer, watched Star Trek, and got an electric toothbrush. Darn clever those White people. Native people constantly wonder at the clever innovations and devices the dominant culture feels the need to create – everything from vibrators to nuclear bombs. Read more »
If you missed the previous blog, then click here. Last week, we left off with Ira Wagler talking about the difficulty of writing Growing Up Amish. In the following video, he continues in the same vein with the tricky topics of guilt, reception of his book, and the challenge of finding the right title, just to name a few. Without further ado, the American Studies Blog now brings you Part II.
Still have questions? Then why not get a copy of Ira Wagler’s book, explore the leading website on Amish studies, or join the Amish scholars, professionals, and educators at the international conference, “Continuity and Change: 50 Years of Amish Society” hosted by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania from June 9-11, 2016?
Questions. Questions. There are always questions, especially when dealing with the Old Order Amish. And questions there were – plenty of questions – following The New York Times best-selling author Ira Wagler’s talk at the Plain People Conference at Leuphana University. In fact, the Q&A ran slightly longer than his introductory remarks to Growing Up Amish. Of course, this really shouldn’t be surprising since Wagler has a unique way of connecting with his audience, an audience on this particular sweltering evening made up of scholars, students, upper-secondary English teachers, and residents of Lüneburg. Reflecting the diversity of that delightful audience, the questions dealt with everything from trauma to the Pennsylvania Dutch. So, if you are Ira Wagler’s fan, an avid American Studies Blog reader, or a student trying to pep up your presentation on the Amish, you can be sure to find ample food for thought.
Wishing for more? Then tune in next week for Part II.