Cape Cod has been on my list of travel destinations for quite some time. What connects me to the Cape’s outermost beaches of Massachusetts are Henry David Thoreau’s walking activities between 1849 and 1857, which he published in his book Cape Cod. Another Cape Cod memory I cherish are the breathtaking paintings of the luminists Fitz Hugh Lane, Martin Johnson Heade, or John Frederick Kensett, some of whose works can be seen in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This March, I rented a small and cozy cottage in North Truro for almost a week, anticipating to finally substitute my mental and imaginary ruminations with actual walks along the beaches of the Cape. The second day, a snowstorm hit the coast so that in spite of the many layers of windproof clothing, I soon retreated to the warmth of the cottage, curled up in a comfy chair, and watched the snowflakes dance outside the windows.
Even if I am not able to remember the pitter-patter of my little feet on the rug-covered hardwood floor anymore, I still recall this comfortable feeling I had sleeping over at my grandparents. The times I woke up in the morning in my room, climbed out of my bed, sneaked across the hallway to my grandparents’ room, and came to a stop right in front of my grandmother’s bed. I looked straight at her face, her eyes still closed. It never took more than a minute before she opened them, smiled at me, and said, “Good morning, my little darling.” 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
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