Friday, August 13, 2010

Amish Reading

No, not reading about the Amish, or even writing about the Amish, but what are the Amish themselves reading? Do a quick internet search on the subject and you'll find a lot of opinions, ranging from the rudely uninformed who can't imagine that Amish people read to those more thoughtful articles which express valid concern over the number of books currently being published about a group which prefers its privacy and isolation. Do the Amish find it offensive that so many books are on the shelves about their way of life?

As the author of a number of novels which feature Amish characters, I can't help but be concerned about how my books are viewed by the Amish themselves. So to find out, I went looking. I first visited a small bookstore which is run by Amish owners and has primarily an Amish and Mennonite clientele. The morning I was there I was the only English person in the store. I loved seeing the huge array of books for children and teens, including all the Little House books as well as some more contemporary authors. As I browsed the shelves I noticed the books which seemed to draw the most female adult customers. That was the section devoted to Christian romance! It included a number of Amish romances along with works by other Christian authors like Karen Kingsbury, who seemed to have quite a following. One Amish woman held several novels featuring covers with bonnet-clad heroines, and she worked her way through the shelves, seeming to check for those she hadn't read yet. Clearly she didn't have a bias against Amish romances!

I wish I could say that my books were there, but alas, they weren't. However, I did find them in a nearby Amish-owned gift shop which had spinner racks of books. All three of my Pleasant Valley books were featured, so I introduced myself to the owner and asked if I might put bookmarks in the books. He was happy to have me do that, saying the books sold very well.

I've also spoken with several librarians who confirmed the Amish interest in Amish-themed romances. One pointed out that she always knows when harvest season is winding down, because her Amish members begin coming back to the library. Many Amish are great readers, she says, perhaps because they're not sitting in front of the television every evening. Come to think of it, I'd probably get through more books if I gave that up, too!

A final bit of confirmation came from a close friend who grew up Plain. She sent three of my books to relatives who live in a Hutterite community, and I waited with some trepidation to hear what they thought. Fortunately the verdict was positive--they enjoyed the books and felt that I had portrayed the Amish characters honestly and with respect.

So maybe that's the key--to write the best books I can, showing the Amish as the real people they are. That's all any writer can do, after all.


  1. What an exciting thing for you to find out! Not only that your books are read and liked by members of Amish communities, but that they feel you have been respectful of their beliefs. Thank you for writing in a way that many of us can enjoy!

  2. Thanks so much, Sally. This is something that concerns me each time I write, and while I do know a good deal about the Amish, I'm still afraid of tripping up and disappointing someone.


  3. I am so glad to hear the Amish like your books.
    I have just finished reading Rachel's Garden, and enjoyed it throughly.

    I think the books are wonderful to teach us a respect for the Amish culture and how not to offend them. for instance, learning their beliefs abot photographs. When you think about it, how can people just go around taking pictures of them. That is so rude. We wouldn't do that to anyone else.