If you're a longtime reader of my blog, you know I don't review fiction. Every now and then, I will recommend an excellent nonfiction book or historical resource for writers.
This week, I want to tell you about a disturbing and unforgettable memoir: Saloma Furlong's Why I Left the Amish.
The most popular genre in inspirational fiction right now is Amish fiction. In these romantic novels, the Amish community is often idealized as a more communal, slower-paced alternative to the hectic rush of twenty-first century America.
I have no doubt that the Amish community has its virtues. But if we are going to read about its positive attributes, I think it's only intellectually honest and ethical to be willing to understand its drawbacks as well.
In an old-world, intensely patriarchal culture like that of the Amish, women don't have much of a public voice. If they are under the protection of a virtuous Amish gentleman, everything may be fine. The question is, what happens to Amish women who have severe dysfunction in their families and no social power to protect themselves when men around them behave in despicable ways? And how common is that situation for Amish families?
Saloma Furlong's memoir is a finely-written, harrowing study of the circumstances that brought her to leave everything she knew and set out for parts unknown with a suitcase in hand. I hope you will click on her name to go check out her blog and read her excellent work. For those of us who love America's past, or communities like the Amish that seem to capture the values of the past, it's vital to remember that a hundred years of progress has brought women protection in very basic ways that we may now take for granted.
I'm grateful for organizations that help abused women start over, and for laws that hold abusive men accountable.
How about you? Are you grateful for a contemporary freedom or protection for women and/or children that we did not possess in 1875? Do you think we have a responsibility to know real history or the real story of a culture, with its beauties AND its flaws? Or is it OK to leave out the flaws?